By: Diamond Braxton
The title “Dear White People” sounds questionanble to most people, and it is the only reason why the movie and the show adaptation of the film received any backlash. But don’t be afraid, “Dear White People” is almost anything but what you think it might be about.
Justin Simien, the creator of “Dear White People”, came up with the concept after attending Chapman University in Orange County, CA. The show is a representation of black people in private school environments, and how racism is alive and well everywhere. It takes place in a private Ivy league college called Westchester where everyone is divvied up into different houses (one of them being the Armstrong House where nearly all of the black kids live). The show focuses on Sam who decided to start a radio talk show on campus called “Dear White People”, where she addresses her peers about the racism that takes place on campus in the many shapes and forms it comes in. Sam is backed up by the Black Student Union where she is desired by Reggie, a black man that believes in the movement just like Sam. However, things get turned around real quick on campus when the Armstrong House finds out that their strongest fighter is falling in love with a white man named Gabe.
The first three episodes focus on a racist blackface party that takes place on campus, and each episode is shown through a different person’s viewpoint. Although this was an interesting enough tactic, by the third episode you really start to wonder if the rest of the show is just going to be about one party that took place. My only critique is that the whole “same story, different viewpoint” element could’ve been left out because it really starts to feel as though you’re waiting for the story to move on.
What makes “Dear White People” special is that it showcases various archetypes of people within a community. Most of the time in film, there isn’t a wide representation of how different people are, so when you get a show like “Dear White People”, you can finally just enjoy the variety in personalities for once. For example, you have Lionel (played by DeRon Horton) who has slowly started to accept that he’s gay, there’s Coco who doesn’t want to be involved in the black power movement but wants to be surrounded by white friends and date the richest white frat boys, there’s Troy who has to live up to his father’s expectations constantly and has to be the perfect student council president, and then you have people like Sam and Reggie who are very adamant about issues that should be brought to light. On the surface this sounds like “okay there’s a gay black guy, a wanna be white girl black girl, a smart, sexy black guy, and some black power black kids, however, it is much much more than that. “Dear White People” allows its audience to see the variety within a community as it explores each character’s deepest issues and how they came to be that way. We see Lionel struggle with his gayness, we begin to understand why Coco is tired of the race war, we feel empathetic towards Troy and the bar that is set too high for him, and we get to see the different dynamics in people like Sam and Reggie.
While “Dear White People” does bring some race issues to light, it is important to remember that this show is a mix between drama/comedy, and is anything but pointing a finger at its audience for being racist. It’s a story about an Ivy League school, and all of the issues that happen there. When you watch “Dear White People”, the last thing you start to feel is attacked. It’s entertaining, engaging, and honestly- you might learn a little bit. There’s a reason the show has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and that’s because critics can look past what’s on the surface but actually see what’s going on in the show. If viewers could give “Dear White People” a chance, then they could really end up enjoying themselves. Also, if you know you’re not a raging racist and you’re willing to listen and enjoy yourself, then seriously give “Dear White People” a chance! I mean… Netflix renewed the show for a 2nd season for a reason!
I give “Dear White People” 4 out of 5 stars.