NEWS

Comedian Jessie Kahnweiler tests her white privilege by offering drugs to police

06/24/2015 06:55 EDT | Updated 06/24/2016 05:59 EDT
Comedian Jessie Kahnweiler recently decided to explore how white women like herself are treated by police in contrast to visible minorities by filming herself attempting to get arrested in Los Angeles.

"Jessie sets out to see if white privilege really exists and can she get arrested or will her whiteness prevent it?" reads the caption of a YouTube video she published late last week.

Unlike most contemporary work on the subject of white privilege, the tone of Kahnweiler's video is quite humorous.

But it sends a powerful message about racial inequality through interviews with police, stories from citizens and footage of LAPD officers reacting to the 30-year-old white comic's wild actions.

"We can all agree that what's going on with the police and black people right now is totally insane," says Kahnweiler at the top of her video. "My one black friend told me that because I'm white, I have all of these privileges, and I get treated totally different by the cops than black people get treated."

The video immediately cuts to footage of her high-fiving police officers in a parade while she shouts "I'm single!"

Her subsequent stunts include drinking alcohol in public and behaving as though she were intoxicated, trespassing in a public pond, cartwheeling naked in front of a restaurant and hugging some on-duty police officers (including police Chief Charlie Beck.)

The most provocative clip in the video begins about 75 per cent of the way through when Kahnweiler offers to sell two police officers prescription drugs.

"I'm selling my antidepressants, do you guys want to buy any?" she asks the officers, whose faces are blurred in the video.

"You know that's illegal, right?" says one officer, after which the smile fades from Kahnweiler's face and she asks, "What?"

"Those are prescribed drugs, and you are becoming a drug dealer by selling them," the officer explains. 

"Oh, sorry," says the comedian as she walks away without even a slap on the wrist.

As shocking and funny as many have found Kahnweiler's arrest attempts to be, her interviews with both black and white citizens, as well as with authorities, make perhaps an even more powerful statement.

"What do you feel about white privilege?" she asks an older black man. "As a white woman, do you think I can get away with more stuff?"

"Yes, you can," he laughs. "And you know it." 

Later, after being asked if he's been messed with by the police, the same man tells Kahnweiler that he was once "beat up by the police."

"What did you do to get beat up?" she asks, to which he responds "Run."

A white police officer had this to say when asked if he believes that white privilege exists: "I don't understand your question."

Kahnweiler's video has been receiving a lot of attention this week from media outlets, people online and celebrity supporters like Judd Apatow.

"I felt the conversation was not productive enough, and I wanted to do something from my perspective," she said when asked by the Times of Israel what inspired her project. "Unfortunately, there's new shit about this every day. I can't believe this is America."

As the Times points out, Kahnweiler is no stranger to tackling sensitive issues through comedy. She's also the creator of several other widely shared videos and short films about such topics as rape, bulimia and Jewish identity.

"As Jews, we walk a fine line because we are 'other,' but we do enjoy white privilege," she said in relation to her most recent video, noting that her boyfriend, who is black, has lived a very different experience on account of his race. 

"Basically, I understand that I'll never ever understand what it is like to be a black person in America," she said. "My boyfriend has a scar on his head from having been bashed up by some cops when he was 12. He would have been arrested several times over for jumping the police chief like I did."

MORE:cbcNews