'The Bold Type': Why Kat & Jane's Conversation About White Privilege Is So Important

Warning: This article *CONTAINS SPOILERS*

We can’t get enough of the way The Bold Type tackles important issues in each episode. When this week’s episode, "Stride of Pride," started with Sutton doing a “walk of shame” then transforming that “walk of shame” into a story pitch, we knew the episode would be no different in terms of its ability to address complex topics that are relevant to young women. Much of this week’s episode centered on an argument between Jane and Kat, leading them to both examine their privilege.

Jane thought she was a great fit for a job she applied for, but then hears that she didn’t get the job because of a “diversity push” at the company. She becomes upset, thinking it’s unfair that she didn’t get a job that she was super qualified for.

Jane, being a classic well-intentioned white person not recognizing her privilege, says she thinks diversity is important, but also feels that it’s unfair that she didn’t get a job that she believed she was perfect for. When Kat calls her out for making these comments, she feels insulted, like she’s being called “racist.” Many of us have had this conversation before, whether we’ve been more like Jane, thinking that it’s “unfair” that we didn’t get something we wanted, or more like Kat, feeling frustrated with people who don’t understand that this “unfairness” is something that people of color deal with on a regular basis.

We’ve seen it in our social media feeds again and again: someone makes a comment that seems to come from a privileged perspective, another person calls them out for it and instead of that person considering their privilege, they feel as though they’re being targeted. Instead of analyzing the situation from a new perspective, the common response is anger, frustration or “seriously?!?! I’m not racist!” And Jane’s response was not much different from that—which is so important. We see her react with defensiveness and confusion, similar to many of our Facebook friends, but by the end of the episode, she gains a better understanding of her privilege.  

Later, Kat finds Jane in her go-to coffee shop, wanting to talk about their argument. She tells Jane that she knows she’s not racist, but her comments were problematic. Jane is still defensive. Kat points out that her comments might’ve been “white privilege-y” and Jane responds with, “I didn’t get a job I was perfect for because I’m white. I was just stating a fact.” This, again, is a common argument—I’m so qualified, I really wanted this job, and it’s not fair. Sometimes, people are looking for a reason as to why they didn’t get what they wanted, and instead of blaming themselves or thinking that, you know, maybe other qualified people applied, they find something or someone else to blame. But making people of color a scapegoat is obviously a huge issue.

It’s hard for Jane to wrap her head around her privilege when she’s unemployed: she doesn’t have enough money, she doesn’t have health insurance and she felt like she was perfect for this job but still didn’t get it. Her response, again, is a common one IRL where she speaks as though she was more qualified than the other candidates even though she doesn’t know their backgrounds, implying that whoever got the job only got it because they’re a person of color. Yikes.

Kat points this out to her, saying, “But how do you know that whoever did get the job wasn’t more perfect? The fact that you assume they only got it because of some diversity handout makes you sound entitled.” Jane’s argument, again, is a common reaction: she questions what Kat knows about privilege when she comes from a rich background. It’s hard for Jane to fathom having privilege when she feels like she’s hardly getting by, which is a common reason people don’t understand what “white privilege” means. When Jane says, “Excuse me for being pissed that I didn’t get a job that I know I can do because of something completely out of my control,” Kat says, “Welcome to the entire existence of people of color, Jane.”

During this conversation, Kat starts to discuss her own privilege. Though she’s biracial, she also comes from a lot of money and her dad helped her land her job at Scarlet. In this episode, Kat is interviewing candidates for a job within her department and meeting Angie helps her think about her own privilege. Angie loves Scarlet but never would’ve imagined that she could work there. She wasn’t able to finish college, so hiring her goes against company policy.

“It’s only occurred to me through staffing that there are so many people out there who are smart and capable and talented, and they don’t even think about working at Scarlet as a possibility because of where they come from,” Kat says to Jane. Now that Kat is in the position to offer these opportunities, she doesn’t want to mess it up. Kat wants to ask the board to change this policy, but she wants Angie herself to present to the board. Kat calls Angie asking her to present to the board, but Angie is working and can’t risk losing her job. Around this same time, Jane recognizes that Kat was right about her privilege and wants to do something to make it up to her. Sutton gives Jane the idea to fill in for Angie at work, allowing Angie to go to the board meeting. 

This episode is so important because it addressed the complexities of privilege and how it’s hard for people to recognize their privilege when they feel anything but “privileged.” It also showed us an honest conversation about privilege—one that was messy and familiar but also ended up being a productive learning experience for both Jane and Kat.