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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Dear White People: We should talk about race

    Last Friday, “Dear White People,” was released with as much potential to make white people feel uncomfortable as “12 Years a Slave.” Written and directed by Justin Simien, a self-identifying gay black man who developed the idea for the film while existing as a “black face in a white place” at Chapman University, “Dear White People” is a satire that reads as too real to be ignored.

    Centered on multiracial Samantha White, a female college student who hosts the biting radio show that lends the film its name, “Dear White People” debunks myths and refutes the notion that we live in a post-racial society. Besides the obvious evidence that we don’t live in a post-racial society -— Ferguson, St. Louis and literally anywhere else- — satire has never seemed more serious.

    The main plot of the film focuses on an annual party thrown at fictional pseudo-ivy Winchester University. The party, which encourages racial stereotypes explicitly by requesting that “dudes must rock Fubu, Ecko, Rocawear or Sean John” and the ladies should wear “huge hoop earrings, long nails and cheap, tight clothes,” would be easier to swallow if it hadn’t already happened at ASU this year.

    In January, Tau Kappa Epsilon, already on probation regarding an incident in 2012, threw an off-campus party where attendees were told to dress like thugs and drink out of watermelon cups. The worst part? It was a Martin Luther King Jr. Day-themed party. Kids hashtagged things like #blackoutformlk and #hood.

    White people, ever unreceptive to discussions about racism, need a stern talking-to. With “Dear White People,” Simien faces the challenge head-on.

    In the film, a black man, Dean Fairbanks, barks at the main character that “[her] show is racist.” Samantha White responds, “Black people can’t be racist. Racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race.” The far more common occurrence of this encounter is between a person of color and a white person.

    “You’re reverse-racist,” says the kid from Vermont, who spent every summer growing up at a country club being waited on, to someone calling him out on his casual racism.

    The refusal to recognize anti-black racism as a problem — as a thing on a far different level and with a far different history than any casual insults directed at white people — is in large part the reason events such as ASU’s “MLK Black Party” and University of California, San Diego’s Compton Cookout still occur.

    In two of the PSAs put out to accompany “Dear White People,” black people are coached on how to fake their way through pretending they watched the BET Awards or the latest episode of “Scandal.”

    “Are you black but not ‘black’ black?,” asks the host of a Dear White People YouTube short. “I get it. Things can get awkward when you are expected to participate in certain cultural touchstones, even though you don’t really care. You know you need to front, but how? Don’t worry. I got you.”

    The joke is that people shouldn’t have to justify their racial identity by proving their affinity with racial stereotypes. Ha. Ha.

    Racial stereotypes are still a thing, and perpetuating them — even if you think you’re well-intentioned (referring to your token black friend as the N-word is not) — is all sorts of wrong.

    “I’m really looking at people whose post-racial bubble is yet to be popped,” Simien told The New York Times. “I want this to be part of a cross-cultural conversation they’ve never had before. Our movie couldn’t have come out at a better time.”

    We weren’t around for “Do the Right Thing” or “Boyz n the Hood,” but we’re alive for “Dear White People” and should embrace it. We are not post-racial.

    _______________

    Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter.

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