Dear Black People, Dear White People Is the Cultural Paradigm Shift/Compensation For Madea You’ve Been Waiting For

It would be easy for “white folk” to take Dear White People the wrong way, to interpret it as a sort of propaganda designed to usurp “the established hierarchy.” But that’s far too generalizing and entirely misses the point of what the film is ultimately trying to say. Yes, it addresses the stereotype of what privileged white male douche bags are capable of getting away with, however, it also acutely highlights that racism, contrary to what many would like us to believe, has not subsided in the twenty-first century.

Promotional poster for Dear White People
Promotional poster for Dear White People
To borrow a quote from Steve Buscemi as Seymour in Ghost World after his friend, Enid (Thora Birch), finds a historically racist piece of paraphernalia in his room, “I suppose things are better now, but I don’t know, it’s complicated. People still hate each other, but they just know how to hide it better.” Indeed, this is exactly the case at Winchester College, an Ivy League school where black students must band together in order to fit in. The head of the Black Student Union, Sam White (yes, an ironic last name), is not your quintessential angry, militant black woman–because she’s also half white. Like Mariah Carey, she plays into her black side more because it’s just a little bit chicer. Her controversial on-campus radio show, Dear White People, does its best to condescendingly educate white students at Winchester on how to act toward a black person, a type they’re clearly not accustomed to dealing with. Deriding comments like, “Dear white people with Instagram, you have an iPhone and you like hiking. I get it,” are what make Sam a leader and a heroine among her fellow black students.

The most alarming statement about debut filmmaker Justin Simien’s Dear White People is that, in the eyes, of the proverbial patriarchy, it still doesn’t matter how affluent or educated a black person is–they’ll always somehow be perceived as “lesser than.”
The minority at Winchester
The minority at Winchester
While this is a movie intended to showcase the prejudices that continue to exist within our “modern” society, white people have still found a way to make it about them. Is this a discriminatory, stereotyping movie about the way rich white people act? Yes. Nonetheless, it is essential viewing, perhaps more for white people than it is for black people (though one of the main themes is how both races try to appropriate elements of the other). No matter what one thinks of the film, and the opinions have been as wide-ranging as “brilliant” to insisting it should be called “Dear Bougie Black People,” it is one of the first films in recent memory to start a long suppressed dialogue about race–which obviously means none of us have moved past it. But maybe, just maybe, Dear White People is one cultural step closer to getting us there. And, most importantly, it frequently acknowledges how much Tyler Perry blows.