A few days ago, I went to go see Justin Simien’s movie “Dear White People”, which highlights racism, privilege, microaggressions, and diversity within higher education. The movie follows around Sam White, a college student at an Ivy league school who has a radio show (and several YouTube videos) titled “Dear White People”. The movie follows her around while along with a few other students, she uses several different mediums to highlight the racial inequality and microaggressions that people of color (particularly black folks) face on a regular basis.
The movie spends a lot of time calling out the racism that still exists within “post racial” United States, including by showing that there still plenty of white people (particularly college students) who think that not only is blackface okay but have entire parties with that theme. On her radio show, Sam uses satire and humor to highlight the things that white people should and should not do to be racist. (Such as: “Dear white people, the bare minimum of black friends to appear not racist has been raised to two.”)
Not only does this movie bring up issues of racism and microaggressions but I also saw underlying themes of the politics of interracial relationships and how resistance should be a community effort, not one driven by one person. (Mild spoiler alert ahead**) Much of the activism and resistance that occurs in the beginning of the movie is initiated and driven by Sam, only to fall through when she has some family issues. That aspect of the movie reminded me of the work that is happening in places like St. Louis/Ferguson, MO and New York City, where the protests and resistance against police brutality are not (and should not be) leader driven but should be community driven.
I saw this movie with my mom and family friend, who are both (unsurprisingly) white like myself. I honestly was a little worried because my mom doesn’t quite understand the current state of racism and often removes herself from any responsibility. But both my mom and family friend seemed to like the movie and were surprised at the fact that blackface unfortunately still happens. I was really happy to see that this movie had stirred even just a little thought for the two of them.
The New York Times has a critique on the movie that articulates my experience with the movie much better than I could ever do. But in the end, I would definitely recommend watching this movie (particularly if you are a white person like me). I know I’ll be seeing it again.