Jose Antonio Vargas Discusses Unpacking Race In New Doc 'White People'

Documentary explores what is like to be young, white and American.


MTV's documentary "White People" premiered on Wednesday and spurred an Internet frenzy around the role race plays in the lives of Americans -- particularly white Americans.

Jose Antonio Vargas joined HuffPost Live over the weekend and shared his thoughts on the public's reaction to the trailer prior to the debut of the documentary. Vargas said his experience as an immigrant motivates his interest in talking about race relations.

"I've been fascinated with the idea of whiteness," Vargas said to HuffPost Live. "In the Philippines Julia Roberts, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey were all Americans -- we didn't call them as white or black."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist interviewed several young white people about race and racial politics for the film. A white male student at a historically black college in the South revealed in the film that for the first time he now feels what it's like to be a minority. 

The documentary examines the confused and complex reactions of white people to Vargas' inquiries about their racial identity. "We don't do anything revolutionary in the film, we ask questions, 'What is white, do you know what it is?' and then we listen," Vargas said.

"This film is questioning this idea of you can't talk about race and not talk about what whiteness is," Vargas said. "When I ask a lot of young white people where they're from, they say American or white as if being white means you're an American -- this country was never white."

Vargas believes that the conversation about race must include white people in order to achieve better race relations. "We can't have a conversation about race and not include white people in it," he said. 

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation with Jose Antonio Vargas here

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