Netflix’s “Dear White People” is everything I wish I could say aloud
As a POC who attended a PWI (that’s Person of Color and Predominantly White Institution for the uninitiated), I have a particular affinity for movies and shows that depict that unique experience. So, as you can imagine, I was thrilled when I first learned about Dear White People, the 2014 film about four Black students at an Ivy League school. But, admittedly, the movie left a bit to be desired. #UnpopularOpinion
So when I heard the creator, Justin Simien, was taking the Sundance favorite to Netflix with a Dear White People series, I just had to tune in…and I was not disappointed. Admittedly, I’m only a few episodes in, but I can already tell I like the show better than the movie. No shade to the original cast, but the 30-minute takes on “being a Black face in an extremely white space” are snarkier, sassier, and funnier than their predecessor.
The series opens with the following James Baldwin quote: “The paradox of education is exactly this; that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” Preach!
I relate to this quote on SO many levels. In both high school and college, I was one of a few “chocolate chips in the cookie, as my mother would say. The scene in the first episode when everyone turns to Samantha White, one of the main characters and a Black woman, when the subject turns to slavery? Been there, done that.
And I rarely questioned microaggressions because I was so desperate to “fit in” with my white classmates. At the time, this was probably due to my low self-esteem as a result of not seeing myself represented in mainstream media (#BlackGirlMagic wouldn’t become trendy until years later), but that’s another story for another day. Long story short: I’m now “woke AF,” as the kids would say, and I’m quick to call out the bias, and sometimes outright racism and sexism, I encountered growing up.
Because when you know better, you do better.
The first episode picks up right where the movie left off, with the main characters exposing the members of a campus radio show for hosting a “Dear Black People” Halloween party complete with blackface and all — which, by the way, is NEVER okay. Don’t try to justify it because you simply cannot, okay? Moving on…
The show also continues the storyline of Sam and her white bae. As someone who dated a white guy in college, I know a thing or two about interracial relationships. If we’re being completely candid, there was a time spanning from high school to college wherein I decided that Black guys just “weren’t my type,” most likely as a result of the teasing and tormenting I had to endure from some of the Black guys in my middle school years (but that’s neither here nor there). Let’s just say my family and friends were surprised that I went on to marry a Black dude. But I digress…
My favorite part of the first episode is (spoiler alert) when Sam confesses to leaking the invitation for the Halloween party, which she describes as a “social experiment intended to “wake some folks up in the same way that the murders of Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, and Philando Castile woke the country up to police killings that have been going on for years.
In the same way that Winchester University has a problem, so does America when it comes to race relations. And no, this is not a *new* problem. Racism has existed for centuries. It didn’t just appear overnight after a certain someone got elected to the highest office in the land. No, siree Bob, Black folks like me have been dealing with white privilege since we came out the womb. That is our truth, something the show perfectly captures while allowing Black people to just be people. Novel concept, wouldn’t you agree?
At its core, Dear White People is a love letter to young Black people growing up in a so-called “post-racial” white America. And I, for one, am all the way here for it.