For my birthday a few years ago, a bunch of my friends and I went out to dinner. At some point, the conversation turned to “The Real World” – all of us in our 30s and 40s talking about our favorite casts, moments, and seasons. Most of us have it engrained in our minds from the endless marathons that MTV ran during our formative high school and college years. So many hours were lost watching those marathons.
Recently, the original cast of the show reunited for “The Real World: Homecoming.” Before continuing, I must state that any one of a certain age who watched the old seasons needs to check this out. It’s so good. Over the course of this new season, they have been showing clips from the original show for the cast to reflect on. This includes the race discussion between Becky and Kevin, because, you know, in the early seasons the show actually dealt with issues instead of just being about hook ups and drinking. 30 years later, the cast watches this clip, and a new argument between the two breaks out.
Seeing the new argument is cringy and frustrating, but also fascinating. Becky comes off as a completely privileged, pretentious person who doesn’t understand how basically everything that she does in that conversation is wrong. She gets defensive, doesn’t want to hear what Kevin or her other castmates have to say, keeps interrupting, and (spoiler alert) ends up being so triggered by it that she packs up and leaves the show.
It’s actually kind of jaw-dropping how oblivious she comes across, even to the point that she talks about joining an Afro-Brazilian dance troupe where she “lost her skin color.” She basically tries to say that she’s liberal and woke, so she can’t be racist. It’s the new version of I have a black friend, so I can’t be racist.
I bring all of this up because race is probably the biggest land mine in our society right now. To be honest, I’m not fully sure that I haven’t and won’t step on any before the end of this post. If I do, I apologize in advance, it is not my intention with this post as you will hopefully see. I know as a cis-gender, white male that I say and do things wrong all of the time. But I am trying to learn and be better every day when it comes to being a better human. Not just about racism, but about everything. Our country has built itself on hatred, division, and racism. It’s something that is uncomfortable for many of my fellow white people to acknowledge.
Last year, we saw multiple videos of Black men and women being killed by police and it led to a galvanizing movement. Finally, it felt like there might be change in the country. Yet, we continue to see more videos of Black citizens being killed – not just by police – and not much in the way of change. What will it take to bring our country together and stop killing each other?
Along with the long history of systematic racism, we have a history of knee-jerk reactionary racism. Think about the internment camps after World War 2, the hate spewed after 9/11, and now towards our Asian citizens due to the pandemic. Some in our country tend to act first and think second.
The attacks on the Asian community in this country has only continued to increase, despite the fact that we have a new president, and we have (hopefully) passed the peak of the pandemic. It’s terrifying to me that my nephews, who are only 4 years old and are mainly concerned with watching Paw Patrol and playing Hungry Hungry Hippos, are going to be accosted. That their innocence will soon be shattered by some douche nozzle who has drank the Kool-Aid into thinking it is okay to attack people based on their differences. I fear that my brother-in-law might be attacked one day while out running errands for no reason other than people are too simple-minded to look into facts.
Going back to “The Real World,” Julie tells Becky that it is not enough anymore to simply be not racist. But you have to anti-racist. As Americans, I think we need to hear that more. We need to be anti-racist. We need to be anti-homophobic. We need to be anti-transphobic. We need to be anti-poverty. We need to do better to help each other.
When my generation was first coming of age, I remember how much the media touted us as being a generation of change. In some ways, we have done that. But there’s still a lot more that needs to be done and I’m choosing to be optimistic that we can continue to push the pendulum to make more change towards equality for all.
Padraic Maroney hails from upstate New York, suffering from middle child syndrome. His writing career began after moving to the Philadelphia suburbs while in high school. He wrote for The Bucks County Courier Times’ Reality section, written by local teenagers, and has the distinction of writing a weekly gossip column for a college newspaper at a school he didn’t even attend! His love of pop culture led him to intern at Teen People, where he met Janis Gaudelli, and realized he could turn being a millennial into a career. Since then he’s alternated between writing and marketing, but always focused on Millennials and everything they bring to the table. Padraic is a lover of shenanigans, 80s music, and the movie “Scream.”
You can follow his additional adventures on Instagram: @padraicjacob