Understanding „Dear White People“

A few days ago Netflix released its new series „Dear White People“ in Germany. Well, guess why I felt like being part of the target group. But am I really?

„Dear White People“ tells the story of students at a college, like every second series being produced these days. BUT these students don’t just deal with heartbreaks and hangovers, race is what matters on campus. That much that the main character, Sam White, yes, I get the irony, doesn’t fit in, being either too white or too black for any peer group around. If someone crossing her way asked her where she was coming from she’d say something like „right out of slavery“. These lines are all over the series, again and again and again.

Of course, the topic got a very bitter taste to it. There is so much racism going on on campus every day, sometimes covered by a cute little phrase like „black ones are just not my type“, on other occasions you face racism directly, when white students paint themselves for a „black halloween“ party. This is relevant, BUT is it joyful to watch this show?

No. The repetition of serious statements that point out past or current racism in the fictional and factual world just hurts. It is sad to see that everyone sticks to groups connected by skin colour, it is even more painful that producing a series (or movie) like this still feels necessary.

My first reaction to it was just not watching it anymore. BUT then my conscience got me. Can I, a white privileged person that hasn’t even felt or thought about the colour of her skin in a very long time, just decide not to like a show like this? It doesn’t feel like it. In my little world race doesn’t exist. All my peers are white, so we just don’t notice it.

„Dear White People“ makes me feel like being taught even if I didn’t ask for it in the first place. It makes me hate the world a little more, it even bores me. BUT if I hadn’t kept watching it, I wouldn’t have thought about how uncomfortable I felt when I noticed having a certain skin color for the first time being the only white person on a bus on Staten Island. And that is not even a situation you can compare with what a person of color might feel every. single. day. It scares the shit out of me.

„Dear White People“ tries, tries hard to make race and racism a humorous matter, BUT it just doesn’t work. And how could you make fun about black lives or use an ironic tone without tapping right into racism itself or attracting racists that understand this literally?

Even if the show is not a joyful experience like „Degrassi“ or „Gilmore Girls“, in the end it got me. Not for the plot or the constant accusations, BUT for allowing the show’s environment to be complex. In „Dear White People“ a black dean doesn’t improve life on campus for black students and one of them is even allowed to be tired of talking about race.

I guess, it is a striking show after all. I would love to know your thoughts, too.

 

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