I do believe the show is being edited to emphasize friction. I'm sure these particular people were chosen out of hundreds of applicants for dramatic reasons. While the show may not be scripted, I'm sure they were chosen with an eye toward self generated drama. So, far I have watched each episode twice. Having said that, here is my view of the players:
Rose: Everyone loves her. She's incredible in every way, white or black. She is obviously the most intelligent person in the house, and the only one really interested in learning from the experience. Rose's first poem really shocked me though. It would kill me to know my 17 year old daughter had written something so sexual, and so obviously rooted in personal experience.
Nick: He's a bright kid, and seems to be a genuinely good guy. It's just a shame though that he has chosen not to participate. I'm sure he's got the universal teen need to rebel, but I get the impression his conduct is more rooted in fear of how he will be treated on the block when he gets back to the real world. Or possibly he's not sure enough of who he is as a person just yet to feel comfortable taking on another persona for fear he might lose himself or like the other persona better. I don't think he's got much to worry about though. He has a strong family. On top of that, black American youth culture is what's hot for the last 20+ years, since Rap caught on. Now it's world wide. I mean, if you lock 5 white kids and 5 black kids in a room for a week, when they come out, who will be talking like who?
Brian: He and Bruno are more alike than either of them seem to grasp. They both came to the show claiming to be open minded, yet all they are doing is trying to find ways to validate their preconceived notions. It's kind of like redefining Creationism as science. The most entertaining thing about Brian is how hugely obvious the chip on his shoulder is. He's got everything going for him, yet he doesnt' realize how much energy it takes to define his life by perceived oppression. He shouldn't make himself so vulnerable by letting words own him either. Bruno is right on that count. A factor that Brian seems to have missed in calculating his "white" victories is the presence of a camera and sound crew. Of course a clerk will put his shoe on for him in front of a camera. I wish I could have the same with me the next time I apply for a job.
Bruno: I can't decide if he is just amazingly insensitive, or if he is also mean in a passive aggressive way. I couldn't BELIEVE it when he just started throwing around the "n" word. I get a cold chill every time he says it. It really clues you in as to what's really going on in his head. It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where his dentist converted to Judaism and started telling Jew jokes because he was suddenly part of the club. The dashiki thing blew me away. I just sat there thinking, "Are these white people really that out of touch from living in their gated community?" If I hadn't already been up to speed on the show, I would have thought he was doing it specifically to mock black culture, sort of like the Ted Danson/black face incident. Instead, I just knew that he really IS that stupid.
Rene: Again, another bright intelligent person, but she's missing the point. She seems to be the driving force behind what has become the premise of the show - teaching white people what it's like to be black, not a mutual exchange. When Carmen says something ignorant, instead of discussing it with her in an honest, approachable way, she takes it as a planned personal attack and withdraws. If her skin were any thinner, she wouldn't have any. With the dashiki incident she actually tried to set up Carmen. Rene, like too many other black women I've known, repels people by being loud and militant. So often they fool themselves into believing they can win people over by simply shouting them down. When this causes alienation she concludes the only possible explanation is her skin color. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Carmen: I've saved her for last simply because she is the most blindingly stupid person I've ever seen on TV. It would be different if her character were scripted, but she is so tragic and sad because she really is that way. I don't think she's intentionally insulting. She's just completely out of touch with reality. It's like the only black people in her life are on "Good Times" re-runs. Only she can be responsible for her actions, but it's pretty evident that people like Spike Lee and Louis Farrakhan have played no small part in forming her impressions. The good news for her is that she doesn't seem to be intelligent enough to know how irretrievably dumb and arrogant she is. The bad news is that white, liberal, racists, do-gooders like her are among the last remaining stumbling blocks for black folks in America.
I really hope Dr. Walter Williams (George Mason Univ.) is watching this show.