The ongoing cultural conversation about race, privilege, and the pace at which society is changing in regards to how it talks about those things, has been a fascinating–and much-needed–development over the past couple of years. Ideas and discussions that were relegated to college classrooms and obscure corners of the Internet are increasingly saturating the mainstream–and when it comes to “saturating the mainstream,” MTV is still a powerhouse. Which makes the company’s “Look Different” campaign, which tackles those same issues, downright timely.
The centerpiece of “Look Different” is “White Squad,” a (fake) company that offers white privilege services to people of color who need a little boost getting a job, a college acceptance letter, or even just a taxi. In the note-perfect, deadpan ad for the service, from Party New York and directed by Howard Grandison & Evan Silver, White Squad hails itself as “a new solution to racial inequality.” The company purports to offer people of color the opportunity to have a bonafide white person pose as themselves in order to clear systemic barriers. “We’re your stand-ins for life’s racially unbalanced situations,” the White Squad spokesman says, as a series of statistics rolls by during reenactments–that white people enjoy 20% more housing options than people of color, that the incarceration rate for white folks is 67% lower, and that white people receive 40% more private college scholarships than students of color.
The ad is satirical, but doesn’t go over-the-top in the pursuit of laughs the way that similar spots like those from, say, last year’s Dear White People did. It’s more “arch” than “funny,” but the point of the spot seems mostly to drive those numbers home, and get people–especially white people–to think about how privilege works. To that end, there’s also a website that further explains the ideas behind White Squad, with a blandly corporate design and a straight-faced FAQ that talks about white privilege without ever breaking character.