Twitter Rolls Eyes At That 'White People' Question

During Thursday night's Democratic presidential primary debate, one question from PBS moderator Gwen Ifill stirred up a lot of attention ― here are some reactions to the Democratic debate's "white people" question. It's possible you missed it if you weren't paying attention, or perhaps if you're suffering from a little bit of primary debate fatigue (this is the sixth Democratic debate, and combined with the GOP's slate, it's the 14th of the primary season).

But it lit up social media all the same, for pretty obvious reasons ― when you're pivoting away from discussing racism and racial tensions experienced by black Americans, and into a discussion about white Americans, you're going to risk hearing a few jeers. That's not to say the resulting conversation wasn't interesting or valuable, or that it wasn't refreshing to see white people characterized and discussed as a group in the same way minority racial groups so often are ― a helpful little glimpse into a worthwhile counterfactual.

But, perhaps needless to say, plenty of people were a little taken aback. Some were glad to hear it too, though! And if there was one constant, it's that people on both sides were willing to make their feelings known. Here are some reactions on Twitter to Ifill's question, and of course, Bernie Sanders' slightly incredulous response: "white people!"

The specific question, as asked by Ifill, was posed to Clinton, asking whether white people had reason to feel "resentful." Credit to the Washington Post's Team Fix, and their invaluable running transcript of the Milwaukee debate.

So many people will be surprised to find out that we are sitting in one of the most racially polarized metropolitan areas in the country. By the middle of this century, the nation is going to be majority nonwhite. Our public schools are already there. If working- class, white Americans are about to be outnumbered, are already underemployed in many cases, and one study found they are dying sooner, don't they have a reason to be resentful, Senator -- Secretary Clinton?

Clinton ultimately responded that she was concerned about every community in America, including white people ― a classically political answer if ever there was one ― and called for federal money to help break up generational poverty. When Ifill asked Sanders if it was right of her to frame her question as a racial one, her responded "yeah, you can," although he quickly reinforced its framing as a "general economic issue."

Sure, maybe it wasn't as illuminating as it could've been. Ultimately, the candidates themselves may not have told us all that much on Ifill's exact question, but it sure started a hugely interesting conversation on social media. And let's be honest, that's at least about half of the fun in these things, no?