October 23, 2017

Cultural Significance of “Dear White People”

What are the issues “Dear White People” addresses that both the black community and young adults face?

Something recently popped up on my recommendations list on Netflix called “Dear White People.” I was immediately intrigued. The title alone captivated me and caught my attention. I added it to my wishlist and could not wait to binge-watch all ten episodes. I had some reservations about the “authenticity” of the show. I wanted to see how “REAL” it would be in its portrayal of what “we” actually think and say to one another about white people.

The start of the show is a scene where a campus run magazine called Pastiche decides to hold a party, where white students attend in blackface. The plot takes place on the campus of an “Ivy League” college that is lacking in cultural diversity.  The main character (Sam) hosts a radio show called “Dear White People” where she highlights racial tensions between black and white students while attempting to enlighten the white student body with thoughtful insight into Black issues.

I was concerned with whether the show would appropriately highlight all the issues that black people face today in society. The show touches on the subjects that have been predominant in the news such as police brutality, blackface, homosexuality, and more. It also features day-to-day issues that college-aged young adults face during this period of transition.

The series covers issues that both the black community and young adults face.  The following is a list of quotes from the show that captured the relevant topics highlighted in the Netflix series:

“Dear White people, please stop touching my hair, does this look like a petting zoo to you?”

Hair is a delicate topic between whites and blacks. I receive questions or comments regarding how I wear my hair, and of course the “can I touch it?” on numerous occasions. The show makes mention of how it’s not appropriate. Some might see it as an innocent question or pure curiosity, but we see it as plain rude and maybe even a little strange.

“Dear white people, our skin color is not a weapon. You don’t have to be afraid of it”.

Skin Color – How the black skin (mainly male) viewed negatively as a weapon and not a person. The mere sight of it brings fear and terror.

“Gun in my face, your hate misplaced, light skin, white skin but for me, not the right skin!”

Police injustice and Brutality – The treatment that African-American men have received in the past as well as present day.

“Racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race; Black people can’t be racist since we don’t stand to benefit from such a system.”


Inequality – The hurt and pain that comes from a comparison of situations and circumstance that are not equal.  “None of this is a threat to you because you already have the power.  Kurt. Can’t you see that?”

“I plan on marrying me a dark-skinned sister, have the ashiest black babies possible.”

Colorism – Total acceptance of dominant black features and skin tones, redefining standards of beauty to match what is mostly black.  “I like my men like I like my coffee ― full-bodied and preferably with Kenyan origins.”

“You’re not Rashida Jones biracial; you’re Tracee Ellis Ross biracial, people think of you as black.”

Bi-Raciality is NOT always viewed as created equal – The complexity that exists within the culture of being/acting/behaving/adapting to what the culture defines as black.

“I listen to Mumford and Sons, and watch Robert Altman movies, do you really think I’m black enough for the Union?”

Black Identity – What does it means to be black within the culture?  Personal preferences in particular interests can make a person an outcast within your community.

“We’re going to bring together every marginalized group on this campus, and demand a protest.”

Inclusion of All – Speaking up for all the groups of individuals, which seeks equal treatment from the majority. “My show is meant to articulate the feelings of a misrepresented group outside the majority.”

“God damn it, Troy, I taught you better than this. I have been in academia a long time, I’ve seen a lot of things. The men who really run this world, you got no idea what they see when they see you. You are not going to be what they all think you are. You will not give them that satisfaction, you hear me?”


How blacks are perceived – Perception is not necessarily reality. Nevertheless, when reinforced continuously, it is hard to determine what is an accurate understanding of black and what is false.

“Which is why I choose to be gay, kidding. That’s not how it works.”

Homosexuality – The struggle with figuring out who you are and who society wants you to be.  This question is not just about color but sexual identity.

“Get my degree. Then law school.”

Academics – The hard struggle with creating a balance between social life and academics. College is a time for freedom and exploration, yet individual choices can derail you from that.

“I want what we always talked about. Maybe have my own firm someday? Run for office. Make a difference. Wife. Kids. I want all that. I really, really do”

Life’s Ambitions – What is the purpose? Does it include the need to have it all, or at least have the option of having it all?

The writers of the show did an excellent job with providing serious social commentary but also offering great comedic satire. The issues are presented to be informative, yet none offensive. It has prominent cultural significance with mentions of relevant topics. The message which was evident to me is the fact that we “black” people in America have the same issues and concerns that anyone else has. Questions regarding identity, the need for parental approval, friendships, and the need for acceptance from the society as a whole. We are the same and want the treatment of us to reveal that.

 

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Bea Moise

Beatrice Moise, M.S., mom, author, speaker, parenting coach, and consultant. She’s an expert on parenting and enjoys anything Sci-Fi. Follow her at @Bea_esioM

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