'We tried to stop them': 'Dear White People' cast parodies celebrity racism PSA video

Kelly Lawler

Celebrities are attempting to "take responsibility" for racism in a new video PSA, but the public, including the cast of Netflix's "Dear White People" and British comedian Ricky Gervais, see it as an empty gesture. 

The two-minute-long PSA made in partnership with the NAACP, featured white celebrities including Aaron Paul, Kesha, Sarah Paulson, Julianne Moore and Kristen Bell, "taking responsibility for the ways they’ve perpetuated racism through silence or inaction," circulated the internet Thursday after many of the participants posted it to their social media pages with the hashtag "#ITakeResponsibility."  It was met with mostly negativereaction.

On Friday, a new parody appeared on the official Twitter account for "Dear White People," a Netflix dramedy about African-American students at Winchester University, a fictional and predominantly white Ivy League school based on the 2014 movie of the same name.

The cast of Netflix's "Dear White People" had a go at a widely-derided video in which white celebrities take responsibility for being silent or complicit about racism.

"The white students of Winchester also want to take responsibility. We tried to stop them," the show captioned the video, which features several white students sharing what they are taking responsibility for.

A male film student apologizes for "liking Quentin Tarantino movies" while the guy who edits Winchester's answer to the Harvard Lampoon is sorry for "being hilarious even though people are PC now." One woman accepts responsibility for "being white and pretty and desirable to men of all races" while another one apologizes for "having asked to see many managers" and discussing her "love of cocoa butter at inopportune moments."

Gervais also criticized the video by sharing it to his Twitter page with a critique.

"Terrible lack of diversity in this video," he wrote.

Fans criticized the video as an empty action that required little effort and made little impact in the fight against systemic racism. 

"How much money are you donating to bail funds and mutual aid efforts to help Black people? Can you commit to publicly supporting abolition? I am not being rhetorical. #ITakeResponsibility" wrote @SultanReina. 

"#ITakeResponsibility? Are they acting in this PSA? Did black people ask for this? Can someone help me understand?" wrote @JaminKCreates. 

Many fans suggested the celebrities use their wealth to donate to anti-racist causes rather than make videos. 

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"Just donate to the Black Lives Matter movement, and save your viral videos. Please," @mousterpiece tweeted. "Talking earnestly for 30 seconds on a cellphone video is not taking responsibility. Donating your money, marching in protests, signing and signal-boosting petitions...that is how you take responsibility."

"look, it's your money and you can do what you want, but can these celebrities stop making these corny videos and like... give some coin," @roserunaways tweeted.

Some compared the "Responsibility" PSA to a video organized by "Wonder Woman" star Gal Gadot featuring celebrities, many of whom are not musical performers, singing "Imagine" as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. Both have been slammed as empty gestures. 

"Eee, honestly. Celebs doing it again. - haven’t they learned from Gadot?  #ITakeResponsibility" @gegraves' tweet read. 

Some users, however, did respond positively to the "#ITakeResponsibility" video's message, using the hashtag to offer similar messages of their own. 

"#itakeresponsibility for not listening to/believing Black people and to make it better, today I will support organizations on the front lines," @Kiersten__Kern tweeted.

On Thursday afternoon, ITR and NAACP issued a joint statement clarifying the campaign. 

"'I Take Responsibility was created to drive a broad coalition to take action by supporting numerous organizations who fight for oppressed communities," the statement reads. "At ITakeResponsibility.org, we point people to organizations who are on the front lines, fighting for police accountability, mobilizing voting efforts and providing resources to families directly affected. We encourage everyone to take action and donate. We are proud of those that used their voices in solidarity with this purpose."

Contributing: Rasha Ali, USA TODAY