We are in the day and age where most people feel that because we cannot see it on a public scale, racism longer exists.
From the era of the Spike Lee Joints and John Singleton classics on movies dealing with different social injustices while delivering great storylines, director and writer Justin Simien attempts to do the same with “Dear White People”. The film “Dear White People” tries to bring the everyday racism and stereotypes on a college campus to the forefront while students battle with trying to find their identities. With the intent of being both humorous and having a message the film follows the lives of four black students with different perspectives on a predominantly white Ivy League college campus in the widely considered post-racism society of today.
Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) is the radical school radio-show host of “Dear White People”, where she offers her sarcastic advice to white people on how they should interact with blacks without seeming racist. Though the audience can take the advice with a cup of humor, she touches on casual racism acts made by unaware whites which may or may not be seen harmless in today’s society. One of the biggest contradictions in the film comes from Sam’s anger towards white people while ultimately sharing a secret romance with Gabe (Justin Dobies) a white student at Winchester University.
Troy (Brandon Bell) is the all-around trophy son of the Dean of Students minus his secret marijuana habit to alleviate all the stress that comes with that. He does as he is told even if that means dating the president of the schools daughter, who is of course white, as a power move by his father. Troy has his battles in the film between trying to fit in with the higher class white students, pleasing his father and simply trying to do what makes him happy. Tensions arise when Samantha beats him in the rigged election for the title of ‘Head of House’ in a popular historically black residence hall, Armstrong.
With her new found authority, Sam fuels the increasing cultural tensions by banning all non-residents (those of which are mainly white students) from eating in the Armstrong café. This move raises the question as a viewer of “is there even a such thing as reverse racism?” Sam answers this in the film as she believes there isn’t since there would be no gain for blacks.
One student also affected by the ban was Lionel Higgins ( Tyler James Williams, whom “Everybody Hates Chris” fans will recognize). No stranger to comedy, Williams brings a humorous edge to the cast while still holding the weighted role of being the gay black guy. In dealing with his own battles against the white students of his residence hall one being the President of the universities son, Lionel attempts to write a piece for the school paper on the cultural tensions between the whites and blacks on campus though he does not feel he fits in with either. This brings a completely different cultural factor of homosexuality and how that fits into racial squabbles.
Lastly, there is Colandrea Connors (Teyonah Parris) or “Coco” as she identifies herself. Coco is the black girl that longs to be accepted and a part of the white crowd. She feels being ‘not-so-black’ can help put her on the fast track to fame which is what she really wants. Jealous of Samantha’s dear white peoples show popularity, Coco decides to bash Sam online with the hopes of gaining some popularity of her own. Struggling with her identity, we see just how far Coco is willing to go for fame when all the white students on campus dress in black face and stereotypical hip-hop inspired attire for a Halloween Party. While swinging around the ever so infamous “N-Word”, the white students of this university show where society really is decades in to this alleged period of post-racism.
“Dear White People” hits theaters on this Friday, October 17.