- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

PBS has a new documentary in the works, “The Whiteness Project,” that attempts to show some of the experiences and hardships of being white — and it’s already causing some consternation and controversies.

About 24 of the planned 1,000 interview subjects have already been interviewed and asked to detail “their understanding of their own whiteness,” the Daily Mail reported. The first video installment includes statements from a heavily tattooed Buffalo, N.Y., woman who says she is subjected to as much bias as any minority.

“I get discriminated against just as much as a minority does,” she says in the clip, the Daily Mail reported. “I’m not a normal-looking white woman. I’m a tattooed women … so you can’t put me in the same boat.”

Another interview subject, an elderly man named Harold, says that he thinks white people are nowadays more frequently targeted for discrimination than black people, the Daily Mail reported. And yet another in the video — a woman who describes herself as voluptuous — says black men in particular respond to her clothing and smiles in an overly aggressive manner.

“When you smile and say hello [to a black man], that is not an invitation to follow me and come to my door,” the woman said in the video, the Daily Mail reported.

Response to the first installment of the PBS video series has been mixed — but many are outraged.

Miles Klee from The Daily Dot said the videos could “easily be mistaken for satire were it not for the involvement of PBS,” the Daily Mail reported.

And another critic, Joe Briggs, said in a Twitter post: “Made it 5 seconds into one of those videos from that ‘Whiteness Project’ thing before entering a world of rage.”

Yet another, from Chris Ziegler, the Daily Mail reported: ” ‘A documentary about white people by a white guy’ is the last thing in the known universe that needs to exist.”

And one more, on the Daily Mail website: “The streak continues. White people remain The Worst. Unbeaten and never tied,” Ryan Nagelhout wrote.

The “Whiteness Project” is being led up by filmmaker Whitney Dow, who admitted on Twitter that he had been a bit nervous about the public response.

He posted that he was “a bit nervous as I know it has a huge chance of being misunderstood,” and that “white people have been very tentative about engaging,” the Daily Mail said.

Mr. Dow also described in more detail the aims of his project: “Most people take for granted that there is a ‘white’ race in America, but rarely is the concept of whiteness itself investigated. What does it mean to be a ‘white’? Can it be genetically defined? Is it a cultural construct? A state of mind?”

His Twitter account for the project has been shut down, with only about 40 followers, the Daily Mail reported. It’s not clear if the project will go forth, given the outrage that’s ensued, the news outlet said.

The project comes at a time when the nation’s eyes have turned on the Missouri community of Ferguson, where protesters have been rallying for weeks over a white police officer’s fatal shooting of black, 18-year-old Michael Brown, claiming the majority white department is discriminatory.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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