★★★★½/★★★★★ Dear White People directed by Justin Simien.
Professor Bodkin: …Might I also remind you that I read your entire fifteen-page unsolicited treatise on why the Gremlins is actually about suburban white fear of black culture.
Sam White: The Gremlins are loud, talk in slang, are addicted to fried chicken and freak out when you get their hair wet.
I have been meaning to see this film ever since I saw the first trailer. A film that uses satire to delve into racial tensions in America? Sign me up! And has small glimpses of Homophobia? And also speaks about other signs of oppression done to all kinds of minorities? And about how certain races are fetishized? Sign me up forever!
I do think the descriptions of the film in certain sites reveals much of the plot, so I will try my best to not do that. The film takes place in a predominantly white university, with semi-clear racial divides, and some small resemblance of segregation, and four of the students in this school try to deal with it. The main character has a radio program called “Dear White People” in which she makes some verbal generalizations about white students, while targeting the systematic racism and prejudice existing in institutions. Another is biracial, and gay, feeling like he belongs in neither side. Another one is only after fame, and does not see racism the way the main character does, she is the most deluded. And the other main character, has a skewed view, and a desire to always please daddy, the dean.
Due to the small budget of this independent film, I thought the trailer was going to remain the best part, and that I was going to perhaps be disappointed with what I would see, but my expectations were exceeded, a lot. Not only was this a well acted and well directed film, but it hit all of the points I wanted it to hit without going over the line, maintaining its hilarity. It used stereotypes to its advantage, and included interracial relationships, and a semi-saviour-complex, while also targeting micro-aggression.
In here we get them.
“The idea of “post-racism,” just like that of “reverse racism,” is really just a coded way of denying the existence of actual racism. And denying the existence of actual racism is really just another form of (you guessed it) racism.”
Often times I hear people saying that racism does not exist, and that therefore, all these movements, affirmative action, and public speakers about the subject are wasting their time, as if not speaking about racism before worked for slaves, as not speaking about the mistreatment of women in history made it all disappear instead of feminist movements. These misguided people are often white middle-class teens that have lived their entire lives in predominantly white neighbourhoods(count me in this category), and have never seen the pressures people of colour are put in (no longer in this category). Most do not even realize that systems are made and kept to retain certain people at a certain level, I have a friend who, before I taught her about racism, Islamophobia, sexism and all that, had me explain to her what institutionalized racism was. It took me three hours to get it through her head, after getting angry repeatedly when she told me that because she never saw it, it could not exist. So yes, racism, whether conscious or not, is alive and festering still.
“Black people can’t be racist. Prejudice, yes, but not racist. Racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race. Black people can’t be racist since we don’t stand to benefit from such a system.” I would much appreciate it if people saw this difference when shouting this at POC whenever they do/say something stereotypical to white counterparts.
There are four main points I want to talk about, welfare, representation, unification and the term “mulatto”.
1)Welfare System: The belief only POC get benefits and the “Welfare Queen” are statistically wrong.
“Calling out the supposed ‘abuse’ of welfare by blacks and other people of color is a time-honored tactic for distracting the general public from actual national issue. It also taps into latent, subconscious racism, which is what right-wing politicians would call a ‘win-win.”
In my second year of college, I had Women Studies, and in it we delved into this issue because quite a few people in a college class, still held the view that minorities are taking advantage of the government, Indians get casino money, and that all the money given “for free” to black people was being used on cars, jewelry, and hairdos. This has been proven statistically wrong various times, and the idea of the Welfare Queen was crushed when the reality of the one case was discovered. However, politicians use fear mongering to maintain these stereotypes alive as a way to disfranchise communities an other-ing them. Their way to get votes is not to help the community they are meant to serve, but to keep communities divided, as a form to keep the majority uneducated and therefore able to keep voting against their own self-interest.
2)Every person of colour as a representation of that race: The many are not responsible for the few and vice versa.
After 9/11, a majority of Muslims in America, have had people asking them to condemn and apologize for it, and every act of terror since. But most Americans are not asked to apologize for slavery, or the KKK, or the acts of terror committed in the name of white Christianity. So why do we deem it necessary to see POC as a whole instead of the beautiful diversity it is? I do not know for sure, there are many different reasons, all of them including some form of racism or prejudice. POC are not all the same, they vary in ethnicity and culture, language and religion, sexuality, political views, ableness, and taste.
We also need to have more representation in the media, I guess that can be its own post, but people need to feel represented. I never had a problem with it because I grew up white in a white neighbourhood, so when watching foreign things, I always saw myself represented. And in my country, many of the artists where of differing backgrounds, so I saw a lot of diversity, but once I came to America, and was bombarded with Western media and having little outlet for Muslim characters, and Cubans that were not part of some Mafia plot, or Latinos that were not gangsters, and black people that were not thugs, or Indian terrorists. My solution was simple, just watch a hella of a lot of films and series from other countries, even if they are very expensive to get, or cannot be seen in your country. Obviously that is not the case for everyone, so showing people of different backgrounds on media is important, it creates a whole generation aspiring for more instead of imagining they can only remain where they are.
3)The unification of POC: Minorities discover standing together is better than doing so alone.
Curls: Do you think there’s enough of us?
Sungmi: Latinos United is meeting across the hall. Asian American League too.
I love coming across unity of minorities in television, we get a bit of that here. Minorities have always been misinterpreted in media, often portrayed as villains or lazy people that, aside from claiming are too lazy to work, come and steal jobs no one else gets to do because they want to, instead of the more historically accurate: escaping oppression and bettering their kids future. We need more of this, there should be more of it in media. In my experience, Latinos/Hispanics/Caribbeans can be of any race or ethnic background, including black, Middle-Eastern, Western-European, Chinese, so it would make sense to have them unite with other minorities to tackle the domineering power, but this is rarely shown. I think I can count the amount of times I have seen a “Latino” character that is not of white-Mexican descent that is still categorized as inferior to other whites. (the fact that there are white people from non-Western countries, in many cultures and are still deemed inferior by white-Americans is an issue that must be discussed more, but I do not want to get off topic)
4)The use of the word Mulatto: Offensive or not?
I am not sure how this word came to be so offensive in American culture. In Latin America and Caribbean, mulato is a term used freely and does not carry the negative connotation we see in United States. So I did not get the reference as much as other people, because to me, it is a normal term. There are two main thoughts on this word, one that it derives from the Spanish to mean a mule, even though it is not used like that, and the other is the Arabic, meaning, a person of mixed ancestry or an adoptee. In America, it seems to adhere to the previous definition rather than the later. It is not the same as the word “mestizo”, but either is not deemed offensive in other countries. They compare to the term “coloured” , which is still used in South Africa, and is not marked as an offensive term because of the majority of the population classifying themselves as such, but in America, looking at the historical context, there are few words that can be as offensive as that one. I DON’T KNOW ABOUT THIS WORD! I do not know, but if anyone knows of any studies pertaining to it, please point me to it.
I highly recommend this film to everyone, whether you agree to what I said or not. If you have anything to add, comment down below. I hope you all enjoy the film as much as I did.