Review: “Dear White People” (2017)

This new Netflix show is based off of the 2014 movie of the same name, and premiered on the streaming platform on April 28th.

I am the whitest person I know, and I consider myself to have some sort of understanding of racism and the discussion around it. Superficial as my knowledge is, this show provided a very illustrative explanation for a lot of things that were not as clear to me before.  Just watching the show makes an expert out of no one, given that I do not and cannot possibly ever truly understand what people of colour go through on a daily basis, but it does aid in understanding my place in my white privilege. I identify with Gabe more than any of the other white characters in the show, I guess.

But on to the show itself! The series is rather short, with only 10 short episodes in its first season, and it leaves you wanting more. The series is very didactic and illustrative, verging on stereotyping, but it ends up complex rather than simplified by this. It’s almost like a “Have you understood or do you need me to draw?” scenario, where the writers almost literally draw out these things in a manner very “easy” to comprehend.

The acting was good across the board, but Logan Browning as Samantha White, Antoinette Robertson as Colandrea Conners, and DeRon Horton as Lionel Higgins really stood out for me, with their very complex character development and portrayal. I must confess I have not watched the original Dear White People movie, but I know some actors and actresses reprise their roles from the movie.

The story covers some crucial points: “polite passive liberalism”, colourism, police violence, the personal vs the political, intersectionality, allegiances, blackface, and so on. Every episode is almost a mini-class in one of these, and even though I found the series overall brilliant, I feel they could have taken it a step further somehow. After the first couple episodes I was like MOOOORE, EDUCATE ME.  I am actually surprised this has not received such a widespread coverage given how amazing it is. What I was not surprised about is white people boycotting this because they felt offended. Seems the world has learned very little as of 2017…

On to the negative points: the acting was shaky for some of the characters, and I did feel the story could have been taken further (although I am aware the show is groundbreaking enough if there are already people calling it reverse racism – which it obviously is not), and I would have liked to see more of Coco, as her story felt particularly poignant and interesting to me. She was a character that brought so much to the table, but could have done even more.

I feel insecure delving deep into the racial discussion brought on by the show, but from the bottom of my whiteness I can say: check your privileges, and be open to understanding the whys and hows. Racism is alive and sadly well everywhere around the world. I come from a country where more than half the population identifies as a person of colour and still the marginalisation and stereotyping runs amok. They are a minority majority,  and how that’s even possible is beyond me (well, it isn’t really, historical discrimination and whatnot, but it is beyond the scope of this post!)

It is not my place to critically assess how well the series portrayed these problems faced by people of colour because well, that is not an experience I have, but I will say that for me it was extremely enlightening and worth the binge-watch! I hope it gains traction as the days pass and that it brings an enriching discussion instead of boycotts and bigotry.  This needs to go as mainstream as 13 Reasons Why!

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