Chicago Theological Seminary launched a new campaign on Monday intended to raise awareness about white people’s ignorance of their own “white privilege.” The campaign centers around a YouTube video titled “White Privilege Glasses,” in which a young white male receives a pair of “white privilege glasses” that allow him to see the world that black people see, a world in which street signs literally read “slave owner” and sneering police officers go out of their way to be physically aggressive.
The video shows the young white man at a coffee shop with a young black couple, who give him the “white privilege glasses” after he questions the idea of white privilege. The woman explains that the glasses will help him “see the world the way we do.”
The man puts the glasses on outside as he walks past a young white mother on a sidewalk, at which point her demeanor immediately changes from warm and friendly to cold and suspicious. The next time the man puts on his white privilege glasses, he is approaching an intersection. Once he puts on the glasses, two street signs named Washington and Jefferson (presumably for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson) are both replaced with the words “slave owner.”
Later, the man puts on the glasses while in a convenience store; once he does, the shopkeeper instantly loses his smile and begins staring at the man with a suspicious look on his face.
In another scene, the man puts on the glasses while walking on a sidewalk near a police officer — also a white male. As soon as the man puts on his “white privilege glasses,” the police officer’s face turns angry as he pounds his baton into one hand, menacingly moving toward the young man.
The final scene of the video shows the man taking his “white privilege glasses” off after watching an empty taxi cab drive right past him.
The seminary also offers a discussion guide to go along with the video, which includes various books, blog posts and YouTube videos dedicated to the subject of white privilege.
First founded in 1855, Chicago Theological Seminary bills itself as the “the global leader in transformational religious studies.” The seminary is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, a progressive Protestant denomination that brags about how it was “the first to ordain an openly gay man, and the first Christian church to affirm the right of same-gender couples to marry.”
Notable CTS alumni include both the Rev. Jesse Jackson, as well as his son, former Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. According to the CTS website, the “White Privilege Glasses” video is meant to “spark discussions and inspire dialogue” about white privilege, which it calls a “very serious issue.”
The seminary invites the public to contribute to an “open discussion” about the video on Twitter, using the hashtag #WhitePrivilegeGlasses.