Comedian Chelsea Handler is the latest celebrity to take her own position as a white woman in American society to task. Like actress Roseanna Arquette, who recently apologized for being “white and privileged,” Handler is addressing white privilege head-on.
In her new Netflix documentary, Hello, Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea, Handler interviews scholars, celebs and activists about white privilege, and focuses on how her life and career has benefitted from it.
The impetus for the project was the 2016 election. Handler told The View Tuesday that the election “made me really take a look at myself, and it made me take a look at my own life and my own surroundings and how much I had taken for granted as being part of my talent and my drive and my will to work hard. I didn’t take into account the color of my skin and how much easier it was for me rather than a person of color to get away with [the] loud behavior that I was getting away with.”
She continued, “I didn’t think racism was the way it used to be. I didn’t think sexism was the way it used to be. I was naive and I was living in my own bubble and I decided I had to do something that was going to make a contribution rather than take it.”
To break out of her “bubble” for the film, Handler placed herself in situations outside of her comfort zone, such as performing at an open mic night at the University of Southern California (USC) in front of a racially diverse audience. She told The View, “It wasn’t welcoming. There were black people in that room taking me to task saying, ‘All you do is come in here and take, take, take.’ You making a documentary about white privilege is an example of your privilege.
“Having them kind of put me in my place was a great place to start for me,” she added. “I get it. I am taking, and I’ve taken a lot.”
Handler admitted that though she considered herself open-minded, it wasn’t until she began the documentary that she recognized a pattern of non-inclusivity: “When I started the documentary, I had this idea that I was woke. I know what’s going on. I know how to be a good advocate and ally to people of color. But then you look at yourself: I moved from New Jersey, to Santa Monica, to Brentwood to Bel Air. I am exactly the problem. I never thought about living in a more diverse neighborhood. I never thought about opening my brain that way.”
Handler says breaking out of one’s comfort zone is the key to tackling issues.
“The whole problem is white people don’t want to be uncomfortable talking about these things,” she said. “They don’t want to ask the wrong questions. They don’t want to offend black people. They don’t want to say the wrong thing.”
She concluded: “It’s OK to be uncomfortable. We can afford to be uncomfortable after everything that’s happened, and stretch our brains and our bodies to put ourselves in situations that aren’t natural, that aren’t comfortable.”
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: