Marquette Play 'White Privilege' Highlights Social Injustices Facing People of Color

Aug 30, 2018

White privilege is a phrase that can be heard in many conversations surrounding social justice issues across the country. Now, it will be the subject of a new stage play coming to Marquette University that opens Labor Day weekend.

Malaina Moore is the mastermind behind the "White Privilege" stage play. She’s a junior theater major, also working on a minor in social justice and welfare.

In this scene, Malaina Moore (right) plays a student who transferred to a new school. Her teacher assumes she's behind in her studies and being raised by a single mother because she's black.
Credit Teran Powell

The play started as a class assignment. Her personal experiences helped shape the story, but so did her followers on social media, who she asked about while privilege:

“The feedback was a lot. Then I strayed away from Facebook for a while and went on to Twitter where it’s kind of a whole different atmosphere of like … harshness I want to say, and I think that that’s what made me go, this is something that I need to talk about because there are so many people with all of these varying opinions," Moore says. "So, a lot of was it was me getting on social media, but a lot of it was also talking to people I knew — my brothers, my best friends — and looking into my own my past that I had kind of been naïve about."

There are nine actors in the show — including Moore — five of them white, four of them black. It’s set up in a series of vignettes, each one with a theme: racism, cultural appropriation or police brutality. Moore says there’s a reason for that.

The black characters joke about real-life instances where white people on social media call police on black people out of unfounded fear.
Credit Teran Powell

“I think that it’s really important with this play that it is traveling through themes. I love that everything ends with 'White privilege is … ' and it’s a clear definition statement," she says. "It’s more straightforward, and what I wanted to really do is make what I was saying very clear, that you know this is an example of where you can see white privilege, etc., and so I think that the vignettes made that more doable.”

For example, there's one vignette about gentrification.

On the left, actors simulate a home sale in a "bad" neighborhood, while Moore's character explains the reality of gentrification for people of color. On the right, she uses the Bronzeville neighborhood of Milwaukee as an example.
Credit Teran Powell

Moore says she’s proud to tell the story, but she’s also worried about how people will react at Marquette, a predominantly white institution, and in theater, a predominantly white industry.

“There’s a lot of very 'out there' stuff that is in there and so, yes I’m very anxious," she adds. "I’m scared of that reception that I may get, but I also do think that if people are uncomfortable, if people are angry that means they feel something and that’s what theater is about, and I have no problem with that.”

However, Stephen Hudson-Mairet, seems less concerned. He’s the head of the theater program at Marquette.

He helped Moore bring the story to life with the help of local theater professionals, and says with a show titled “White Privilege” there should be no surprises about what people will see.

On the left, the character known as One, explains how black women's bodies have been sexualized for centuries. On the right, the character known as Three, simulates a Twitter conversation with a Trump supporter.
Credit Teran Powell

“In theater the way you have a conversation is by presenting it, and I think it’s a really well-done script in that it doesn’t cut any corners, it doesn’t pull any punches, and yet it provides the opportunity for everyone to see themselves on stage and learn from the process,” he says.

'White Privilege' runs at Marquette’s Helfaer Theatre this Friday through Sunday.

Moore says all she wants for her audience members, after they see the play, is to have it change something in them, so they can go out and change the world.

Support for Race & Ethnicity reporting is provided by the Dohmen Company.

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