“Bet you think this show is about you.”
There could not have been a phrase better than this one to decorate the promotional posters of the Netflix series “Dear White People,” which came out April 28th.
No, I am not Black.
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this show.
Which is probably surprising to some. A show with such a title seems to make some think that it’s only appealing for the Black population, or a show that shamelessly degrades Whites and takes them on a sort of “guilt trip.”
Let me be one to say that this show is nothing like that.
The main character Sam White is a half-Black, half-White student at the fictional Ivy-inspired Winchester University. As the president of the Black Student Union, Sam takes on the role as the pioneering Black advocate for her dominantly-White campus by hosting her own daily radio station named, you guessed it: “Dear White People.”
First of all: A biracial main character? A female biracial main character? A female biracial main character who leads a coed group on campus? Name one other show that has the guts to establish a context like that. We are constantly talking about how Hollywood has been plugging and chugging the same roles for minorities year after year after year, and this show destroys that stigma. This set up was one of the first reasons I started watching the show.
There are various issues discussed in the show that concern the Black population as well as the White population. We learn about how different members of the Black community view their own issues, as not everyone is always on the same page. There are four main Black student groups on campus: The Black Student Union, the African-American Student Union, the Black American Forum (also known as Black AF) and the Coalition of Racial Equality. They all sound like the same thing right? Nope. Not even close.
We also learn about how the Black community sees half-Black half-White figures, and how these biracial figures struggle to “prove their blackness” in order to be accepted by the Black community, as being labeled as having “lighter skin privilege” means not fully experiencing the struggles of a “true” Black person, even through Sam herself is without a question seen as Black by other non-Black individuals.
We learn about how innocently ignorant the White community is about certain issues, such as how asking someone “What are you?” is annoying, and how the use of the “n” word by a non-Black individual is so concerning- even if it’s being used in a song. Ignorance isn’t always rooted in hate. Sometimes, it’s simply due to not being properly educated.
We learn about how Whites who truly try to immerse themselves into the Black community have to struggle with always being associated with the long history of anti-Blackness.
We learn about how certain Blacks sometimes feel the need to “hide” their Blackness in order to succeed in a dominantly-White society.
We learn about the fear Blacks live with every day when interacting with higher authority.
We learn a lot.
Now I know for a fact there will be many people who watch this show and say, “I would never say that!” or “I would never do that!”
But the point is, it did happen. It does happen.
And there isn’t enough being done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
This show was not made out of “white guilt.” This show was not made to indicate one race is better than the other. This show was not made to make anyone feel bad.
This is a show that was made to show not just one side, but both sides of the story.
I’m not going to say you’ll agree with every scene that takes place, but I am hoping that you will at least observe every scene and take a moment to think about what is happening, who it’s happening too, and what you would do in their shoes.
“Dear White People.” It’s a bold title.
But it fits for an equally bold show.