“Check your White Priviledge”

Apart from those which are made with more than just entertainment in mind, very few TV shows I’ve seen have addressed race in a manner that doesn’t try to make light of the issue. That is why I was really excited when Grey’s Anatomy, one of my favorite shows, decided it was time to talk about the implications of race in the workplace.

The episode begins with the hire of a new Doctor, who happens to be white and male (fun exercise: how many of you assumed his whiteness and/or gender?). We later find out that he is a cardio-thoracic surgeon, and would therefore be working under Dr. Maggie Pierce, the Chief of Cardio. (Maggie is an African-American woman)

All through the episode, we see instances during which this new doctor keeps trying to undermine Maggie’s authority. The most notable scene was the one in which Maggie tries to explain to her patient what’s wrong with her. Although Maggie is the one who’s speaking, the patient (a white woman) directed all her questions to the male doctor, and would wait for him to confirm what Maggie had just said.

This must’ve been the final straw, because when she goes back home, you see her recounting the tale to her sister and her friends (both white doctors, one male and one female). As she is telling her story, the two women at the table were nodding in agreement the whole time where as Alex, the man, was just standing there looking bewildered.

Then Maggie says, “and then there’s the other thing…” She is talking about whether or not the new doctor’s behavior could be because of her race instead of her gender, or maybe a combination of both. When one of the women tries to disagree with her on the existence/prevalence of racism in the workplace by saying she couldn’t believe that “it” could still be a factor, Maggie replies, “That’s ’cause it’s not your thing.”

The scene that is attached below is a sort of continuation of this exchange. The white woman thinks she might have a racial problem with one of her residents, and so goes to Maggie for help:


I think Maggie had the perfect response, right down to the “I don’t speak for all black people but…” The only problem I had with this episode (unrelated to the plot) was the characters’ refusal to explicitly mention the words ‘race’ or ‘racism’. I think doing so would’ve better conveyed the show’s message.



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