*WARNING – this article contains spoilers*
Sam White is the loud and proud black woman, constantly fighting for the cause. Lionel Higgins is the quiet journalist who does more for the cause in his moment of courage than anyone. Reggie Green becomes the face of the cause after he almost dies for being black. CoCo Conners is desperate to tone down her blackness. Troy Fairbanks shows that it can happen to anybody.
The show starts with a Black Face party hosted by an all white, male magazine publishing staff.
People talk about how awful it is, how terrible it is that this kind of thing “still happens in 2017” – but no one except a few students is willing to fight. No one from the administration is willing to do anything.
There are two episodes that really stand out in the 10 episode series – episode 5 and episode 10.
In episode 5, some students from Armstrong Parker go to a party at a white man’s house – a friend of Reggie’s. They’re having fun, dancing – until the man holding the party sings the n-word in a song. Reggie asks him not to do that, and the guy gets defensive.
He starts arguing how he isn’t racist, and other people start getting involved and eventually Sam’s white boyfriend calls the police in the hopes of protecting his friends.
Except the campus police pulls a gun on Reggie, forcing Reggie to show him his student ID before he puts it away. People are begging the campus cop to put his gun away, but he refuses.
You start to panic as you watch the scene unfold. Is this about to happen? Are you about to watch an innocent black man get shot just because of the colour of his skin? You can’t more, but you want to scream at the screen, “Don’t do it.”
You start to think about Tamir Rice. About Sandra Bland. About Eric Garner.
Eventually, the situation defuses. But you keep thinking about what almost happened. You can’t shake the thought.
The other episode that strikes you is the final episode. Troy and Coco are hosting a Town Hall after what happened to Reggie. Sam decides to protest it but so do two other student groups – one purposefully trying to drown out the voice of minorities. It’s disgusting to see the lengths that people will go to in order to prove that a post-racial America exists.
But, focusing on Troy Fairbanks – and his father – in this episode is definitely a noteworthy point. Troy’s father is Dean of the university, training him to be an upstanding young black man so that he’ll never be the target of police brutality. Except Troy smashes a window at the protest, and the police are on him in a heartbeat.
When his Dad sees, he comes out screaming, “Don’t shoot – that is my son.”
It shows that it can happen to any person of colour.
It is eye opening.
The show’s commentary on police brutality isn’t the only point it makes. Another key component of the show is getting to grips with colourist – which is basically lighter skinned black people being prejudice against darker-skinned black people. This is displayed in the tension between Sam and Coco, who is the darker of the two.
Coco calls out Sam for her behaviour, after a harsher radio program targeting her after the Black Face party, stating, “Imagine the reaction if your divisive revolutionary drivel were coming from the mouth of a real sister. You get away with murder because you look more like them than I do.”
Coco always knew she was black, but Sam didn’t know until the second grade. It highlights the differences in a group so often painted with the same brush, showcasing that not only are they targeted by others, but by people who are supposed to be on their side.
Of course, when a show like Dear White People comes along, certain white people get a little flustered about getting called out on their privilege. They’re even calling the show a double standard, claiming that if there was a show called Dear Black People, the black community would lose their shit.
Now, let’s get one thing straight – some people need to be woken up to their privilege. This is what this show is about, helping people who may not be 100% aware of what their white privilege affords them. People who complain that Dear White People is a double standard are exactly the audience that needs to watch this show.
Netflix has released some breakout shows this year, but Dear White People is amongst the best.