A few months ago, I posted a question on this very site about Netflix creating a show around the much talked about movie ‘Dear White People’ that would have the same name. And, to no surprise, this sparked outrage. Well, whatever outrage you could possible have on G@G, anyway. Check out the question, poll, and responses here.
The point is, the show was perceived by many to have racial undertones. Why? Well, because of it’s name. And I’ll admit, hearing the title ‘Dear White People’ does tell you that this show will deal with race in some way. But did it deal with it in the way people thought it would?
The short answer is no. That’s because it was thought that the show would be an attack on white people. But was it actually?
Again, the short answer is no. Allow me to explain. **Spoilers ahead**
The title is not racist. At all. Not even a little bit.
This argument in and of itself is completely stupid. Using the word 'white' or phrase 'white people' isn't racist just like using the word 'black' or phrase 'black people' isn't racist. The fact that the title begins with ‘dear’ means that it is addressing a person or talking to a person, not necessarily talking about them.
Think about it terms of a cover letter.
For those of you who do not know what a cover letter is, a cover letter is an overview about yourself that you present to an employer during the pre-employment stage. That could mean posting it online or bringing it with you to an interview. It lists out your qualifications, your philosophies, and what you could possibly bring to the table.
You know what it doesn’t talk about? How great is the employer. A cover letter is about YOU, not your employer, and it’s about your personal experience. We all learned in grade school that to begin a letter, the common format is ‘Dear so and so’.
Literally my cover letter, as a teacher, begins with ‘Dear -Potential Employer’s Name-’.
Basically, the title is stating that something is about to be said TO you to INFORM you of something. To assume that it’s all about you just because someone is writing you or speaking to you is narcissistic. The show is about things that many black people go through simply because they are black that the majority of white people will never experience simply for being white. I as an American cannot understand what it is like living a life in North Korea and I wouldn't be offended if someone told me that because it's true. It also deals with sexual orientation and self identity which I’ll discuss later in one of the last points.
There are things in the show that white people actually do to people of color, even if though most of the time there is no ill intent, and, yes, it’s annoying.
Now, I don’t know about those ‘blackface’ parties on the show as I don't know how much of an issue that really is, but other than that, the truth is that there are things in this series that white people do, even if they don’t mean anything by it, that I personally have experienced myself. For instance, Samantha White, the girl who hosts the radio Samantha White, the leader of the black student union and voice to the radio show ‘Dear White People’ in the series on Winchester’s college campus, said in the very first episode, “Dear white people, here’s a little tip. When you ask someone who looks ethnically different, ‘What are you?’, the answer is usually, ‘A person about to slap the s—t out of you.’”
Now I, personally, don’t necessarily get offended by this question. But it’s annoying when I’m asked this by people several times a month. In fact, I just got my hair done at a salon a few days ago and had two white stylists separately ask me ‘What are you?’ The first couple times, yeah, okay, I get it, but then you get to the point where it’s just downright annoying having to answer a question over and over and over again.
It’s also a bit of an ignorant question to assume that because someone is say lighter than most of their race or have different features than most of their race that they must be mixed with something. My sister is three shades darker than I am and most [white] people assume we aren’t blood sisters when we have the same parents.
Also note that she said ‘someone who looks ethnically different.’ That could be anyone from black to Asian to Hispanic.
It’s just a truth. People of color say things like this, but the truth is that white people tend to do these things more than people of color, no matter what ethnic group those people belong to. It’s a fact. If you don’t like it, then don’t be one of the people who does it.
The white boyfriend is actually a positive white character. And, yes, white people like that do exist.
And they do. I’ve dated several white guys. My sister’s husband is white. My cousin’s husband is white. And they act just like Sam’s boyfriend, Gabe.
He doesn’t ever pretend to be one of them or try to fit in. But he’s dating a woman who is half black. She hangs around her black friends. And no one wants to be a secret from their loved one’s friends and family, so of course he wants to be involved in her life.
And he’s not a push over. He gives Sam ultimatums. He walked out on her in the first episode when she allowed her friend Reggie to get in his face and start an argument. He called her out on her dumb standard of not wanting people to know they’re together because of a simplistic post on social media. He ended up leaving her when he found out that she slept with Reggie. And then at the end of the series, he tells her they will never work and leaves her. Sam is literally tearing up during a riot outside a townhall meeting on campus as Gabe walks away from her because SHE fucked up. And she did.
Where in the world people are getting that Gabe is a push over is beyond me. I personally think that anyone, regardless of race, should take a page out of his book. Have respect for yourself, but also have respect for your partner and understand them. However, don’t put up with bullshit and lies, either. If someone, in this case Sam, isn’t going to willingly accept all of you into their life without shame, then they shouldn’t be in your life. Period.
Gabe represents the better half of someone who is ethnically different from others. He can’t directly relate to their struggles or animosity, but he also doesn’t sweep their concerns under the rug and is able to admit that there may, just MAY be a problem that needs to be fixed, even if he belongs to the group that is perceived to be the root of the issue.
You also have to consider that this same group of black people whine and complain about how white people don’t get their struggle or even listen. Then you have Gabe here who is trying to hear them, but the second he makes a mistake, he’s outcasted. We, as black people, can’t ask white people to understand something and then get mad when they don’t fully get it. That’s just stupid. You have a white person willing to listen and then you tell him to go away? That just doesn’t make sense. “I want you to admit that there is a struggle but don’t help us try to fix it.” I mean, come on. And some black groups are guilty of doing this.
Part of the show is how blacks feel about how some white people treat them. The majority is how we treat ourselves as a race and the divides that some black people create themselves.
It’s no secret that some black people have a divide within our own race. My mother is light skin and my dad dark, but I take after my mother in that area. And because I'm lighter, I've been told I'm a prettier black woman, that I'll find a man faster, get a job easier, and be desired more. All because I'm lighter.
And the MAIN people who tell me that are not white.
Shocked? Don’t be.
Sam and her former best friend, Coco, get in to it in the first episode. Sam is mixed with grey eyes and Coco is a dark skinned black woman who’s real name is Colandrea.
Coco talks about how Sam’s hair isn’t really natural since she’s mixed while Sam goes in on Coco’s self hatred of her own hair and that’s why she wears wigs and weaves. Then there’s an episode where Coco goes to a party where you’re supposed to be picked up by a man. Every white woman is picked up, but her. Then her love, Troy, interest wants to be with Sam and is with her formally. But when he gets with Coco, he tells her they were never really together and it was just a friends with benefits thing. Coco hates her natural hair and even goes so far as to tell Sam to check her light skin privilege. So, yes, self hatred is real and it’s a main issue being addressed in this series.
Coco struggles with trying to fit in somewhere even going as far as to try to get into a sorority to Sam’s dismay and the two eventually grow far apart.
Then there’s the sexual orientation. Lionel is first formally introduced and elaborated on in the second episode of the series where he is seen jacking off to his roommate, Troy, getting it in with Coco in the next room. Lionel is a virgin and wants to be one of the bigger, tougher black guys but when given the chance to have sex with a white woman, he laughs. Why? Well, turns out the person turning him on wasn’t Coco. It was Troy. And, again, it’s no secret that being gay is extremely taboo within many black communities. If I had to guess, it’s more so unacceptable to blacks than it is to whites. To make it worse, Lionel is a nerd. He went to a costume party in high school dressed as Geordi la Forge from Star Trek and was made fun of not by white people, but by blacks.
Then there’s how ridiculous some black people can be sometimes. Like when Sam blamed Gabe for Reggie being held at gun point at a party. Reggie got into it with the white host of the party for saying the ‘n’ word in a rap song. When it looked like the two were about to fight, Gabe called the police. The police officer, not believing Reggie was a student, held him at gunpoint when Reggie didn’t immediately produce an ID badge whereas the white guy wasn't asked at all, even going so far as trying to vouch for Reggie himself. Sound familiar?
Reggie should have held up his ID when the police officer first asked. But then Coco pointed out that everyone was being ridiculous for being mad at Gabe for the situation even happening. Why? Well, because it’s not Gabe’s fault that Reggie almost started a fight over a word in a rap song. And Gabe didn’t know the cop would do that. All in all, the entire situation was Reggie’s fault. And despite what the media and some white people believe, not all black people jump the gun to blame whites. But the second some of us do, we are then also outcasted. That’s a problem.
And the black community can’t agree sometimes on how to handle a situation. Troy and Coco want to talk it out with a town hall meeting and use politics. Lionel wants to publish stories in the school paper. Sam wants to riot and do lunch sit-ins. There’s conflict within the black community, and I think this show does a good job addressing that.
If there was a show called ‘Dear Black People’, there would be protests.
What, did you think I was going to disagree?
I wouldn’t be surprised if there was only because there’s not much that black people or any racial group for that matter think that white people have anything to complain about. Then again, there may not be. Like I said earlier, the title is talking to someone, not about someone. So I guess it would depend on what the show was about. But I’m sure also that just like some white people there would be blacks that boycotted Netflix, too, without actually seeing the series for what it was. Ignorance doesn’t discriminate and can be found among everyone regardless of race or gender.
So maybe, just maybe, instead of reading the title and seeing it as an ‘attack’, why not take it as a chance to actually see from someone elses point of view? You don’t have to agree with everything. And you can be offended by some things. But can you honestly say that there isn’t at least one thing about this show that has some type of merit?
Most Helpful Opinions
Look Elarra, that post was so well thought out. It is so well written. It covers a lot of ground on race, self-hatred, homophobia in the "Black" community, acceptance, respect. . .
But this may not be the best forum for these types of discussions. It is hard to teach people about anti-racism, when they don't even know what racism is or what racism does.
I used to lead a race/culture discussion group. And a lot of times the conversation would get out of hand, especially when it came to the "Black"/"White" dynamic. There was just too much animosity, guilt, and weirdness. So I tried to have the group focus on the American Indian experience. I had the group watch excerpts from a film called, "The Business of FancyDancing". You may have heard of it. It is by Sherman Alexie.
Well, needless to say, the whole thing went straight over their heads. They simply could not grasp this nuanced, unique, highly emotional perspective. The principle character was an American Indian poet, who left the reservation. He hated his upbringing, he hated being an American Indian, yet all of his work was about his life on the reservation. There is a brilliant scene from when he was a toddler. It shows them in a truck in a blizzard. The snow was coming down so hard, you could barely see. Then out of nowhere you see a man and a woman stumble toward the truck. You realize, that these are the parents, and they parked the truck outside the bar. They could not afford a babysitter, so they would just stick the kids in the truck and come out and check on them every couple of hours. Just so they could get drunk. But despite all of this, he was proud to be an American Indian. A gay American Indian. Deeply ashamed and absolutely proud.
I just think most people hide behind these primary colors, "Black". "White", "Yellow", "Red", as though these actually define all of these nuanced experiences and identities. There is simply too much fear, for most to go further than that. To see what they actually have in common.
It like they fear that they will lose something or some edge. It is so hard to describe. But one thing is for certain, you won't fun that kind of perspective here at GaG. Or among most in public.
And I guess I can't really articulate why. All I can say is you are just going to see post after post of confusion, hurt feelings, shame, guilt, anger, and fear.
Not many are trained in this whole seeking and understanding deal.
But it was a noble attempt.
I know lol. I'm actually interested in seeing who all will still argue that it's racist. So far, most people are still sticking with the racist title but I haven't seen anyone address the rest of Take for real. Probably because it's true lol
Yours (and @Elarra 's) quality of insight are wasted before much of the audience here. 👍
Yeah, well there was one gentleman who posted something very well thought out. But not many others will engage, they can't even absorb what you wrote. I mean, I showed the scene with the American Indian children in the truck from the movie, everyone in the group just sat there with their mouths open.
Its like they were trained on what the American Indian experience was like their whole lives. And when something authentic was shown to them, it fried their brains.
How can people who don't understand race, never talked about it, or discussed it in any detail understand the "Black" community's issues with homophobia? Or how "Black" nerds are perceived?
As that lady Princess said. . ."I couldn't get pass the title". I am sure she did, but then she reached a divide by zero error.
But anyway, you would really enjoy Sherman Alexie work. He was doing the American Indian version of Dear White People years ago.
@meatballs21 Well, I was actually just telling that to Elarra. But she seems to be the type that likes to shake things up.
It's true, I do lol. I'm a controversial writer. I don't write fluff or things to make people feel good. I give the truth. You don't have to like it, but there it is for all to see.