A Satire About Being a Black Face in a White Place
*Note: Spoiler Alert*
The movie “Dear White People,” released Oct. 17, seemed controversial to some and honest to others. It courageously presented honest questions that addressed racism in the 21st century
“Dear White People” was directed by Justin Simien. He began writing the script of “Dear White People” in 2006, which was called “2 Percent” at that time. Simien was inspired to produce this movie because he had a similar experience at his university, Chapman in Orange, Calif., where he was an African-American at a primarily white school. According to an article from The Daily Beast, Simien started advertising for the movie in 2010 on Twitter, and then by 2012 had a ton of followers from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Since people were excited about the film, Simien launched his funding campaign on Indiegogo, where he wanted to raise $25,000 and managed to receive $50,000 overall. This movie was a process to produce, and it dealt with multiple controversial issues regarding racism in America today.
According to a New York Times article, the primary themes captured in the movie were “race, sex, privilege, and power.” A few premises of the movie were to debunk some racial stereotypes and to display how racism is still present in the US today. The setting of the movie was a made-up college called Winchester University, a prestigious college that was majority white people. There were a multitude of characters and diverse races represented in the movie, such as African-American, white, Asian, etc. However, the movie had four African-American characters whose stories were the primary focus.
These four characters had different personalities and diverse racial experiences. Samantha White, played by Tessa Thompson, was a biracial student who was mixed with white and African-American. She also had a radio show called ‘Dear White People’, where she boldly discussed the racial stereotypes white students have regarding African-American students. Then, she functioned as one of the spokespersons for African-American students. Samantha appeared to be confident with her racial identity, but it was a mask to hide her uncertainties about being mixed. Next, Brandon Bell’s character, Troy, was an athlete, the African-American provost’s son, and the boyfriend of the white president’s daughter, who tried to escape his racial identity by using drugs.
Teyonah Parris’ character, Colondrea Connor nicknamed CoCo, felt shameful about her race regarding her name, skin color, and hair. She tried to assimilate to American society by having her hair, clothes, and speech meet white expectations. Tyler James Williams from the TV show “Everyone Hates Chris” played Lionel, who was a gay, smart man who was judged by African-Americans and white people. He was a writer for the school newspaper reporting on racial affairs.
Each of the four characters had their own share of drama in the movie, in some form or fashion. One point of the drama occurred when Samantha ran against Troy, her ex-boyfriend, in a residential hall presidential election. This resident hall was where African-American students resided on-campus. Since CoCo disagreed with Samantha’s view of white people, she made a video blog to discredit Samantha’s claims about racism in America. Lionel teamed up with Samantha to have a source to relay the drama for his reports. More drama happened when Troy and CoCo were competing against each other to be featured on the comical university‘s magazine. This was Troy’s last chance to repair his popularity, and this was CoCo’s moment for fame. Tension was high with Lionel and Samantha being secretly involved with people who would impact their public images.
The scene that had the most drama was the campus Halloween party titled “unleash your inner Negro.” White students dressed up in blackface attire where they wore black face-paint, gold chains, or afros. The purpose of blackface attire was to ridicule African-Americans. This party caused the most drama when a riot transpired because of it.
A film critic, Jonathan Kim from The Huffington Post, claimed that “Dear White People” made a statement that noted “just because you don’t see racism or don’t want to see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
“Dear White People” was a comical satire, but the purpose of the film, addressing that racism is not dead in American society, was more powerful. This was a great tool to show how racism is still present in colleges today and displayed the diverse experiences people have with racism.
Sources: www.huffingtonpost.com, www.thedailybeast.com, www.desertsun.com, www.nytimes.com