We just watched Amnesty International’s new video, “When You Don’t Exist,” and to be honest we can’t quite decide how it makes us feel. Certainly the campaign raises awareness for and about disenfranchised immigrant populations. We think that’s a good thing, and although this video seems targeted to a British audience there’s no doubt that the issues it explores will become increasingly important here as the States hurdles towards 2042. On the other hand, there’s something uncomfortable about the way the campaign relies on the assumption that audiences will find whites inherently more sympathetic than people of color. Maybe that’s the point, and this ad simply forces the viewer to acknowledge a prejudice that values white personhood over any other sort. We can’t decide, though, if the point is made too subtly, and those prejudices end up being reinforced even as a positive message is made about immigration.
On yet another hand, at least one member of our staff felt a weird and undeniably problematic pleasure at seeing middle-class, suburban whites recast as disenfranchised refugees. Whether that pleasure was derived from some form of schadenfreude or uglier racial resentments is something that person will have to work out for themselves, but if you had a similar reaction we’d love to hear about it.
In fact, we’re having such a hard time deciding how to feel about this video that we’ve decided to put the question to you, in the hopes that your responses will help us decide what the appropriate response is. Take our poll below, and feel free to elaborate in the comments section if you feel the need. We need all the help we can get deciding what our opinion is on this piece.
Photo from Vimeo.