Dear white people, a controversial 10-episode online series, exclusively Netflix has me feeling pumped. The show was released on the 28th April worldwide and in true Netflix style all episodes were available at once. It took me less than a day to assimilate the whole season.
The satirical show written and directed – incredibly well – by Justin Simene carefully illustrates many issues affecting the black youth, though centred in America and focused on American political its relates to a worldwide audience. Many issues bleed into other minorities too. As a British- Danish Pakistan I found myself snapping and nodding my head at least a few times every episode. 10 minutes into the show I was hooked, from westernising names, seeing no consecutive representation in media to taboo interracial relationship Dear White people covers it all with sharp wit and humour.
The plot revolves around a group of African American students at a faux university called Winchester. Each episode is in the eyes of one particular student, a new trend in young series. Yet the structure works. It gives the opportunity to dig deep, something a limited 1 and hour movie could not do. Each story is a chance to see the different relationships between each character and the colour of their skin, their heritage. To see what battles and struggles they are facing.
Stay woke. The series highlights political amnesia; slavery has ended, everyone is equal therefore racism is over. Black people have the same rights as everyone else, they can use the same toilets, sit anywhere on a bus so why are they angry? ‘It’s self-segregation’ the justification by many idiots. Discussed both in the movie and series Simene shows the ignorance that still exists to date. Racism still exists and Dear White People brings you the bare bones of it. Our youth are being profiled, mental wellbeing and day to day life is being negatively affected, marginalisation based on skin colour still occurs. People of colour still don’t have the same platform to voice themselves.
Yet those who are turning a blind eye are not only white, it’s people of the same race and colour too. Heather may seem like an insignificant character but her ideology captures the current political climate. As an Africa-American you would think she would be conscious of #blacklivesmatter and its need but she is completely unaware. In her mind racism is over, her reaction to Reggie staring down the barrel of a gun was of sheer shock. Not because it happened but that it happens at all. Yes, on paper we are all equal yet when a white student rapes another he is not prosecuted as it will be damaging to his career and when black youth carrying marijuana are arrested and given hard time.
This series is an exhibition of black talent. Marque Richardson plays Reggie, his episode aka the episode campus security pulls a gun on him was the climax of the season. That scene and the aftermath is nothing short of Oscar worthy. I felt Reggie’s soul crushing humiliation and trauma. It lingered on my mind for days begging the question, how do the survivors of police brutality cope? Simene offered the rare opportunity for a black actor to showcase their talent without playing a drug dealer, gangbanger or rapper. A mass generalisation worldwide of black youth.
Sam played by Logan Browning and Colendrea played by Antoinette Robertson also give powerful performances. Sam, an anarchist film major faces an inner battle between fighting for a worthy cause or focusing on her personal interracial relationship. Logan brings strength and vulnerability to Sam, an empowering woman you cannot help but get behind. I would like to acknowledge the writers for creating the leader of the black students at Winchester a woman. Seeing women on screen in authoritarian roles is slim, let alone of a minority background.
Colandrea’s characters is complex at best. She had me feeling uneasy, she is bitter voice of honesty.It’s the kind of honesty that lives in the pit of your stomach and every time you think about it, it ruins your day. Colandrea shortened to Coco, an act that vexes me but is completely the norm. To westernise a traditional name for the sake of fitting in. Mohammed Muktar Jama Farah became Mo Farah, Farrokh Bulsara became Freddie Mercury and Peter Gene Hernandaz became Bruno Mars. Many people watching this will believe that Sam is norm. Proudly supporting African jewerly, apologetic and supporting natural hair. Unfortunately, she is not Coco is. Sure, the younger generation is more woke than ever but there is still a giant pressure from society. Coco by no means is the villain, she is what centuries of white-washing and oppression looks like. Coco chooses to downplay her ‘blackness’. Witness racial violence in her childhood and teens she now chooses to be part of the system rather than fight it, ‘self- preservation’ as she puts is. This is the same mentality of many ethinic minorities I have met, I’ll let that racist joke slide, I’ll dress more like Kate Middleton than my other, I’ll create a social circle with majority white people. It’s not wrong to choose/ want an ‘easier’ life but it’s not fair.
A show like this has been a long time coming. Shows like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Scandal (top marks for the parody, Defamation) have explored black lives and the experiences of people of colour, but Dear White People centres the racial aspect of these realities and brings it to you on a plate in 10 (15?) glorious, powerfully unapologetic hours