The Reason Gabrielle Union Had an 'Awkward' Conversation with Lena Dunham

September 22nd 2016

Gabrielle Union wants to talk to famous white women in Hollywood about white privilege.

In an interview published this week from the online publication xoNecole, Union, who is promoting the film "Birth of a Nation," explained what she believes white privilege really means and pushed back against the common argument that white people who work hard don't also benefit from it.

"I have, however, had conversations with people that are on my team, the cast and crew that I work with, friends from high school, etc., and it’s been very fascinating to see that so many people are so resistant to the idea of oppression in America. They think you can just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and work hard enough to achieve the American Dream. People will say, ‘My parents came from another country and didn’t speak English,’ but even so you still get the privilege of whiteness. Most of the people that I know have never truly had to function on a level playing field."

Union also made an important point about fighting racial inequality and called out white women in Hollywood.

Earlier this month, Lena Dunham made some questionable statements about New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in a Lenny interview with Amy Schumer.

Dunham sat next to Beckham at the Met Gala, and because he didn't hit on her, she made up an internal narrative for Beckham where he came off as sexist and unintelligent.

People accused Dunham of projecting racial stereotypes about black men onto Beckham.

Supermodel Kate Upton also criticized NFL players for joining San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in protesting racial inequality by kneeling or sitting during the national anthem.

Union called out these women and said that Americans need to have "awkward" conversations with people who don't understand institutional racism.

She said she already had that uncomfortable conversation with Dunham and hopes to talk to Schumer and Upton as well.

"In order to begin to see change start to occur, we have to be willing to have conversations with people who have different opinions than us. I’ve already talked to Lena Dunham; I would love to talk to Kate Upton and Amy Schumer. Maybe I can help to explain the oppressive systems that have benefited and allowed them to say these careless, insensitive and offensive things. Those conversations are awkward as fuck and they get heated. Similar to watching people have conversations about consent."

Union is emphasizing a point that other women have also recently made about race conversations.

Last month, a C-Span caller admitted to being racist and asked how to fix it. Heather McGhee, the president of Demos, an organization dedicated to progressive issues, told him that having an honest and open conversation was an important first step.

“Thank you so much for being honest and for opening up this conversation because it is simply one of the most important ones we have to have in this country,” she said.

Earlier this month, Seattle Reign midfielder U.S. Women's World Cup Champion Megan Rapinoe said that white people need to listen to black Americans and be involved in the conversation about race.

She's been been taking a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with Kaepernick.

"We need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this country. Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it."

RELATED: Gabrielle Union Explains Why She Took a Role in a Film Directed by a Man Accused of Sexual Assault

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