“Dear white people, our skin color is not a weapon. You don’t have to be afraid of it.”Logan Browning, Dear White People
Airs: Netflix | Air Dates: 2017 – Present | Number of Seasons: 3
Dear White People is based on a film (which I had not seen prior to watching this show) that follows a group of students that make up the Black Caucus at Winchester University. The show follows several students as they navigate the rapidly changing social and political atmosphere at their university. The main character as she is introduced is Sam White, a biracial girl with a strong personality and a desire to make a change. Sam hosts a radio show titled Dear White People and discusses incidents that occur on campus. The episodes alternate points of view during the seasons, allowing the audience to learn about many different characters and their backstories.
Watching this show was extremely eye-opening (as I suspect it was meant to be) and detailed some of the shortcomings that real universities face in order to create an equal environment for their black students. However, this show also highlighted some of the disconnect between the black student groups and their beliefs. The characters didn’t always agree with each other, instead choosing to explain their points of views and fight for their ideals rather than settle for something they don’t truly want. The unity between the groups comes in the form of their dislike of the administration’s neglectful policies and that’s where the show became interesting. The groups had to learn to work together, despite their disagreements.
Another thing that I really liked about this show was that the majority of the main cast was black, but it didn’t feel like forced diversity. Despite the title being seemingly condescending, the show actually diverts from this expectation by instead portraying the normalcy behind these politically aware students. Often, with shows that cast black and other POC actors to fill a diversity quota, the characters are often written to have token black/POC experiences (i.e overly dramatized). In Dear White People, the characters have normal experiences, connecting to the title by seeming to say “Dear white people, we’re just as intelligent and capable of using our voices to enact change as you are.” Each character feels much more real than a token character would and I think that it was successful because the audience has a chance to connect with the characters.
Handling race on TV shows can definitely lead to backlash, however, Dear White People handles race in a way that portrays the challenges of being black in a postmodern society where racism doesn’t come in the form of Jim Crow laws. Most of the characters are fighting to be heard at a university that makes them feel like they’re a requirement to fill a diversity quota. They discuss concepts such affirmative action and racist culture in Greek life and other organizations on campus. Not only do they take care to not diminish anyone’s experiences by creating characters that experience racism in different forms. While the racist events and actions serve as climax points, the show takes care to discuss the aftermaths and the emotional trauma that occurs as a result.
The one criticism that I have for this show is the final season. The third season’s plot line became extremely convoluted and it became hard to follow the show’s overarching plot thread rather and the individual experiences didn’t add up to a collective story. All the characters were dealing with different things and never seemed to overlap. Had this season had a more impactful ending, I might be a little more invested in season four. However, I believe that it will be an interesting conclusion to the show.
Overall, this show was extremely entertaining to watch. The characters are written to be extremely dynamic and the experiences that they deal with are extremely relevant in today’s society. It’s definitely a show that’s worth the watch as it serves not only to entertain, but also to teach.