The ‘Chewbacca Mom’ Is The Definition of White Privilege

A viral video on the Internet has turned into a story of White privilege. But, I’m not terribly surprised.

A stay-at-home mom named Candace Payne aka “Chewbacca Mom” became a household name when she stopped by a local Kohl’s department store and picked up a Star Wars themed character mask that makes the iconic Chewbacca gurgling growl every time the mouth moves. She posted a Facebook Live video which became the highest viewed video in the history of ever (at over 100 million views in the first week or so).

And, since then she has been valorized by the media, the academy, and a host of other usually inaccessible institutions…all for giggling in a car in a face mask she bought for her kids.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X26FuAlnnWY

Now, this story would be perfectly okay with me if subsequent events had not transpired as they did. Since the video went viral, Payne has been awarded thousands of dollars and even a college education for her antics, according to Time. First, Kohl’s brought the whole family $3,000 worth of gifts and giftcards.

Second, she and her family were given a free Walt Disney World vacation where she actually got to meet Chewbacca in the flesh, worth $7,500. She has been on countless talk shows, again, worth thousands of dollars. Finally, the undeserved award that put me over the edge was the “scholarship” to Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida for Payne and her entire family. It is estimated that the award is worth $400,000.

Now, I am not one to knock anybody’s hustle. I am a proud champion of the “you get your’s and I’m gonna get mine” way of life. However, what bothers me about this case is not that she is getting something (a lot of somethings) for nothing. Rather, I am more concerned about the ways that these awards are a part of a larger dynamic that privileges White people in the United States.

There is no doubt that Americans pride themselves on rewarding those who “deserve” rewards. Countless studies and literatures detail the mental calculus many (often conservative) Americans go through to justify their support of public policies which assist middle-class Whites while they decry the injustice of public policies which assist underprivileged and underserved communities of color who have been systematically disprivileged over generations. When I see the Chewbacca Mom, I see a funny lady who clearly has a great personality and a beautiful family whom she clearly loves. But, what I don’t see is someone whose family deserves a free ride to a private university. I just don’t.

Maybe I am especially sensitive to this issue because of how difficult it was for me to get to college. I had to work really hard. I sacrificed a lot of time throughout high school and gave up countless parties, events, etc. just so that I could devote the maximum effort to getting to school. I had no money for college. So, I relied on nonprofit organizations to both teach me how to apply and help pay for my applications and test fees. Literally, years of my life were dedicated to figuring out how to get to college. But, she made a video so that’s it.

Too often, individuals from underrepresented and disprivileged communities are forced to sacrifice a great deal just to get many of the opportunities guaranteed to their privileged peers. Usually, those differences fall along racial and class-based lines.

Now, it is not lost on me that Chewbacca Mom is the perfect spokesperson for a company like Disney, a company which is least concerned about poor people of color and most concerned about market share. But, it is frustrating nonetheless when one considers the scores of young people, primarily of color, who couldn’t convince a major organization like Disney to even give them a free t-shirt without some form of promotion for their own brands and products.

White privilege is wrapped up in modern capitalism (often referred to as “neoliberalism”). “Chewbacca Mom” is a part of that cultural commitment. While her video is cute and her personality is endearing, I can’t help but see through the charade.

 

Photo: YouTube

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Jenn M. Jackson

Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief
Jenn M. Jackson, PhD is a co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Water Cooler Convos. She is a native of Oakland, CA. Jenn is a radical Black feminist scholar who believes none of us are free until all of us are free.

10 Responses

  1. j_rogowski says:

    the very absence of any comments on this site for the last two months is evidence of… lemme think… white privilege?

  2. GreenInOC says:

    Totally off topic comment but I have fallen in love with the What’s Ray Saying podcast (http://whatsraysaying.libsyn.com), I’m in evangelizing mode! I first heard him on Snap Judgement this weekend telling the story Grits & Sausages (http://snapjudgment.org/voice-of-reason). I could go on and on but suffice it to say, he’s an amazing storyteller that is informed deeply with his knowledge, life experiences, humor and emotion.

  3. Lauren says:

    Sorry but how is this anything to do with her being white? Would you be pissed if she was of colour and got a scholarship?

  4. Jessica Ware says:

    Shut up. Just shut up. You’re stupid. This is incredibly racist. White privilege isn’t real. You’re stupid if you think it is. STOP BRINGING RACE INTO EVERYTHING OTHERWISE YOU ARE THE RACIST ONE! you’re all stupid if you think this is “white privilege” yoire racist. Yoire stupid. Yoire racist, yoire stupid. The author of this is stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Idiotic. Irrelevant. Killjoy. Just stop and shut up already dumbasses

  5. Emilio Gonzalez says:

    “When I see the Chewbacca Mom, I see a funny lady who clearly has a great personality and a beautiful family whom she clearly loves. But, what I don’t see is someone whose family deserves a free ride to a private university. I just don’t.”

    Why? Because they’re white? You know absolutely nothing about her life or the life of her family prior to this video going viral. Who are you to say what they deserve? You try so hard to talk about how underprivileged people of color are, and how they would deserve it more. That’s racist! You are saying, “take away what these white people have and give it to people of color” for no other reason than the color of their skin.

    You are a racist. You have this platform to reach people with your thoughts, and you use that to take a fun story about a family and turn it into racial prejudice. Just stop. How about this…the next time you see a positive thing happen to a white person/family, just be happy for them? Better yet, the next time you see a positive thing happen to ANY person/family, just be happy for them! Just grow up and stop looking for reasons to bitch about race.

  6. Allison Mac says:

    She didn’t get all of those things because she was white. She got those things and she’s white. There’s a big difference. Correlation isn’t causation.

  7. Ginges says:

    Honestly I can’t tell you how many of my friends I know that are white who’s parents can’t afford to put them in college and who didn’t get scholarships because they were white, yes because they were white, because it’s better for a school democratically to accept someone of color with similar or less credentials than someone that’s white with similar or higher credentials. I know a few friends of color who get subsidized tuition from the government who hardly pass their classes or don’t at all and just cash their check on anything but school, a check that could go to anyone else of color or white who would utilize it for education and furthering their lives but instead these people were chosen because their race, financial status instead of effort and drive to learn. People say white privilege and this and that when as a young white person in this country who is not racist, not hateful, no correlation with the past discrimination or slavery none of that, I feel more discriminated and targeted every single day just because I am white. The more I go onto the internet, the more hate I see by all these movements and how they target white people for being white, whom they know nothing about besides their pale skin, the more I see this the more I myself hate my pale skin and hate myself because the entire internet makes me out to be a privileged, racist, hating human being.

  8. Andre Silva says:

    Mrs Jackson, I agree with you. United States is a racist country. I had no idea how racist this country would be, until I moved from my homeland (Brazil) to here. After moving I had many horrible experiences, from the girl that I was dating and started avoiding me because she was thinking that I was dating her for the green card, to the sellers that look at you different because you have an accent. It’s disgusting.

    I would like to ask anyone that didn’t see anything racist here, IF the “Chewbacca Mom” was Black, Hispanic or Asian; do you really think that she would receive the same benefits as the white “Chewbacca Mom” ?

    Another thing, IF racism is not present in the american culture, why whitewashing is so common in Hollywood ?

    P.S. Before calling me illegal or saying that I’m the racist here, two things.

    FYI I was born in US but I was raised in Brazil (basically, after getting my major and my Masters I moved here for a better quality of life) AND RACISM is a strange word when you were born as a white person in US 😉

  9. Evelyn L Ray says:

    Umm…she didn’t go viral because she is white. She went viral because she was funny as hell. They gave her all that crap not because she is white but because she made them money. It is called marketing. Look it up. Come up with a really good youtube video and have it go viral. If it has a connection to a company – Bingo! – you have your scholarship, money and prizes and guest appearances. The company won’t give a damn what color you are.

  10. Dusty Ayres says:

    Comically (and stupidly) missing the point seems to be a feature of the makeup of people like you. Flagged.

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