Before the show was even released, it received a lot of criticism from people claiming the trailer was offensive and “anti-white”. Dear White People is not racist, nor is it prejudice. Logan Browning, who plays Samantha White, advises people to “watch the first episode. In the first seven minutes, anything you thought was going to be anti-white, is knocked down… [you’ll] see that everyone’s voice is represented in the show”. The show is based around truth and highlights the everyday racism that still occurs now, aiming to educate viewers about the discrimination that black people still receive whether intentional or not. The purpose of the series is not to offend white people, but to educate them and it does an excellent job.
Here are a few of the most important moments from the series:
Warning – Spoilers
1. Sam’s Radio Rants
Sam White is the first character we’re introduced to. She’s an outspoken activists who host the controversial radio show, Dear White People, and uses her platform to speak out on the issue of racism on campus. Her radio rants are passionate and enlightening and contain some of the most important messages of the series.
Perhaps the most memorable speech she gives (at least for me) is the one after a black-face party takes place on campus. Sam takes to the radio to vent her feelings about the event and those who attended or saw nothing wrong with its occurrence. She says: “When you mock or belittle us, you enforce an existing system. Cops everywhere staring down the barrel of a gun at a black man don’t see a human being, they see a caricature, a thug, a n***a. So…nah! You don’t get to show up in a Halloween costume version of us and claim irony or ignorance. Not anymore.”
2. When Coco Embraces Her Natural Hair
During flashbacks of Coco’s life, we learn that in an attempt to fit in with her white peers, Coco decided to start wearing straight wigs and ditch her natural hair. Although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to wear straight wigs/weaves or straighten your hair, the only reason Coco did it is because she thought it would help her to fit in and for acceptance. Towards the end of the series, she finally realises that she doesn’t need to have straight hair in order to fit in or be accepted and ditches the wig, embracing her natural curls. From this moment on, she seems to be a lot happier and comfortable with her appearance.
I have African-American hair and I personally choose to straighten it. I don’t do this in an attempt to fit in with or look like white people, I do it because I find it a lot easier to manage and because I like the way it looks.
Although the issue is not addressed in the series (but briefly mentioned in the film), many white people view African-American hair as a novelty. Throughout my childhood, I’d often get people (even strangers) come up to me thinking it was acceptable to touch my hair. It’s not. My hair is not a novelty for your amusement or curiosity. I don’t come up to you and randomly feel your hair, it’s not normal, don’t do it.
Along with this, I also get people telling me how I should wear my hair. When I had it curly I’d constantly be told that my hair would be so nice if I straightened it, and now I have it straight I get people telling me I should embrace my curls because “they’d be so pretty”. What I do with my hair is no one else’s business. White people aren’t constantly told what to do with their hair, so don’t tell me what to do with mine.
3. The N-Word and Police Brutality
In my opinion, the most important episode of the series is Chapter V. During a college party, an altercation erupts between Reggie and his white classmate, Addison, after he sings the n-word. Reggie politely asks him not to sing it, which sparks an argument with Addison claiming that he’s not racist and shouldn’t have to censor himself. The campus police arrive shortly after, assume Reggie is dangerous and pull a gun on him.
Although Reggie walks away from the incident unharmed, the episode highlights the risk of police brutality black citizens face everyday and makes you think about how much things could have escalated. A harmless argument at a party could have cost a young, unarmed man his life. This isn’t just for dramatic effect, the same can be seen in real life in the cases of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and many more young black citizens who have lost their lives unnecessarily due to police brutality.
After the almost fatal incident, Reggie writes and performs a moving and heartbreaking poem at an open mic night, which highlights just how much the incident affected him. You can read Reggie’s poem below.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,
among these — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,
unless you’re loud and Black and possess an opinion,
then all you get is a bullet,
a bullet that held me at bay,
a bullet that can puncture my skin,
take all my dreams away,
a bullet that can silence the words that I speak
to my mother just because I’m other.
A bullet held me captive,
gun in my face, your hate misplaced.
White skin, light skin, but for me, not the right skin.
Judging me with no crime committed.
Reckless trigger finger itching to prove your worth,
by disproving mine.
My life in your hands,
My life on the line.
Fred Hampton. Tamir Rice. Rekia Boyd. Reggie Green?
Spared by a piece of paper,
a student ID that you had to see before you could identify me,
and set me supposedly free.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,
for some of us, maybe.
There’s nothing self-evident about it.”
In my opinion, Dear White People is a show that everyone should watch regardless of race. Not only does it focus on racism, but many other social issues that are important within our society, handling these subjects through both care and bluntness along with both seriousness and humour. If you haven’t seen it already, please take some time out to watch it. You can watch the trailer below.