Dear Black People?

As a mixed race student at a predominantly white university (PWI), I was initially intrigued by and slightly fearful of the Netflix series Dear White People. I was interested in seeing the controversial issues that the show would choose to tackle and how these would be handled in a setting similar to Wake Forest. But that is what also made me fearful. I was fearful that I would be forced to leave my safe space in which I could see the good in people and instead would be viewing into a WFU 2.0.

I was pleasantly surprised when that wasn’t exactly the case. You see, “Dear White People” isn’t actually about white people at all. Yes, each episode tackles racially charged issues occurring between the white and black students, or the black students and the administration. But, if all those infuriated “white people” who threatened to delete their Netflix had actually watched the show, they would have hopefully realized that it’s not about them. Dear White People is a show for but primarily about black people.

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE.png

Still from Dear White People, “Chapter X” (Season 1, Episode 10, 2017)

The intraracial relations between the black characters drive the plot of the show more than any of the interracial relations ever could.  Dear White People has a 100% certified fresh rating on “Rotten Tomatoes.” This wouldn’t be possible if the show only focused on the interracial societal issues on college campuses. That would be boring. Race relations is a prominent issue in society today and no one is going to open up Netflix to watch something that they would likely hear on the news. The characters and their experience are much deeper than just how white people treat them, it’s how they treat each other that matters more.

Whiteness is not the main subject or object of the show, it serves more as a descriptor for the environment in which they reside/function in. Naturally, the black characters in this show interact more with each other than they do white characters. The same could be said about Wake Forest, black students typically interact more within themselves than with white students (i.e. The Barn.) The interactions between the black characters speak more to the experience as a black student at a PWI. We get to watch these characters themselves and their place in the black community while simultaneously functioning and thriving at an elite white university. Within themselves, the black characters deal with issues of “Who is real enough?” “Who is represented enough?” or “Who is woke enough?” Read more about “wokeness” here.

Presenting African American students at a PWI as a united front would be incorrect and unbelievable. Just because their skin is the same color and they represent 4% of the student body doesn’t mean they always have to get along. They argue, they compete, they question, and they criticize. In the end, their individual experiences are what divide and unite them. This constant stream of conflict and resolution between the black students is what the show is all about, not white people.

dear white people

So, No @bakedalaska… Dear White People isn’t about you, nor should you feel personally victimized by it. Dear White People exists to inform and educate its viewers about all aspects of the black experience at a predominantly white university, which is primarily shown through intraracial interactions rather than just focusing on interracial interactions.

Kylie Long

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3 Responses to Dear Black People?

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I really liked your piece and think it will do a great service to everyone who reads it. I never watched the show on Netflix, mainly because of being in a phase of watching stupid comedies, however, the way you describe it is the way everyone should go into watching this show. I know as a white male, when I first heard this title I just thought to myself “oh no, what the hell is this going to be about.” and felt annoyed just at the premise I thought the show would be about. After reading about it I knew that was not the case and think it would still be really cool to watch; I believe I would enjoy it. I think your analysis of what is really important about this show is accurate, in the sense that the tweet you used as your image is someone who never gave this a chance or actually read about it, but the intraracial aspect is what is valuable. You are showing that this is not for white people to feel like a target because of institutional racism and oppression in the 21st century, but to reveal the culture in which many black students find themselves in at their respective Universities, and how they interact amongst each other and come together for causes. Great article, taught me a lot about the show and to reflect on these issues.
    – Anthony Duran

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I think you did a great job highlighting the reality of what the show was created to – and successfully – address. The subplot absolutely works to subvert harmful stereotypes about black men and women throughout the season. This show was not created for white people and this fact should be welcomed as a media text that celebrates diversity on an intraracial level. (Meghan B.)

  3. marymdalton says:

    Great post. I liked the show (saw the movie twice) very much. Try breaking your paragraphs into shorter chunks for a more journalistic style. Excellent screen capture, by the way.

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