Orange Is The New Black Addresses White Privilege–And It’s Lackluster

The topic of white privilege has, of late, been at the forefront of media and pop culture. And so, it makes perfect sense that Orange is the New Black would attempt to address the issue, considering the setting in which it takes place is rife for racial contention.

Promotional poster for Orange is the New Black
Promotional poster for Orange is the New Black
After being granted the elusive prison furlough that no other inmate has been graced with, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) faces such criticisms as “Chapman ain’t got no strife in her life.” The ire that black women in particular feel for her is palpably strong, prompting Chapman to defend herself in the cafeteria by screaming,

“Yes I am white. We have established that. And I got furlough too. I guess white privilege wins again. And as a speaker for the entire white race, I would like to say I am sorry you guys got the raw deal. But I love my fucking grandmother. And yeah, she may be a whitey too, but she’s a fucking person and she’s sick. And she needs me. So shut the fuck up.”

Experiencing not so white privilege
Experiencing not so white privilege
The response to this not so moving speech? Crazy Eyes throwing nondescript prison food at the back of Chapman’s head. And, in a way, rightly so. For starters, Chapman’s labeling of other minorities as getting “the raw deal” is utterly impotent and unaffecting. Not only is it dismissively generalizing, but it also assumes some sort of necessity for inequality between races. Even though the current backlash against white people seems a bit over the top/indicative of how forbidden it’s become to say anything offensive about minorities that are no longer really minorities (white people are expected to lose their “majority” status in three decades), Orange is the New Black missed out on an opportunity to say something truly salient about white privilege, rather than just apologizing for it like every other guilt-racked asshole who has no control over his or her skin tone.