“White People” premiering tonight, touches on hot-button issues

Jose Antonio Vargas CoverJose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize winning, openly gay advocate who came out as undocumented on the cover of Time Magazine, has created a new documentary that premieres tonight. “White People” looks at power, privilege and race, as we can see from the teasers. The documentary is part of “Look Different,” a multiyear combination of on-air and digital content plus the power of social media – to give youth the tools and the forum to discuss racial, gender and LGBT inequality in society.

These inequalities are increasingly being brought to light. For example, activists throughout the country led by the BlackLivesMatter movement have worked hard to get the media, public officials and civic society to address the growing list of Black people (cisgender and transgender women, men) that have been killed by police, died in police custody, were murdered with impunity, or by gunmen that espoused anti-Black sentiments. Sandra Bland and India Clarke are the most recent names that activists have brought to national/global attention in various actions.

Vargas has asked people to question the assumptions around what it means to live, work, go to school and otherwise contribute to this country with and without documentation and with and without racial and gender privilege. He has done this in order to call attention to the plight of people like him who don't have access to regularized status. There are an estimated 11 million undocumented people in the United States, some 267,000 of whom identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender.

Although President Obama signed an Executive Order in 2012 to allow some people who came to the United States as children without documentation to stay, study and work (referred to as DACA), the cutoff dates famously left Vargas out. Also DACA did not mean a permanent status for those who qualified and many contend with states that do not allow them to drive, pay in-state tuition, nor access health care.

In 2014 President Obama extended DACA to the parents of those who had received DACA but that left out many of the undocumented who are LGBT, fleeing rejection and discrimination in their home countries or who do not have familial ties to anybody in the country. DAPA has stalled in litigation because some governors have questioned the right of the President to provide this kind of relief.

Throughout all this, although the President has offered a guidance to prioritize only violent offenders for detention and deportation, immigrants continue to be housed in a growing list of detention centers throughout the country, which many advocates have called out for their unsafe conditions especially for vulnerable populations such as cis and transgender women, families, lesbian and gay detainees and HIV+ detainees.

In addition to calling out these realities and inviting undocumented immigrants and their allies to speak out about how they are impacted, Vargas explores the interlocking assumptions that contribute to the status quo.