“Dear White People,” directed by Justin Simien, addresses a great deal of campus climate issues at Winchester University, a fictitious Ivy League school with very real racial conflicts. Many sources have revealed that these tensions are not fictitious but are indeed very real and happens to many people among the world. Blacks are hiding who they are, ridiculed and harassed because of race and sexuality and afraid of being a “stereotypical black” by their counterparts on the Winchester Campus and in American schools. ”Dear White People” is a film about the struggle to accept or reject how the world views you with who you really are. The film makes an argument about a topic most black people can identify with which is defining themselves.
Simien uses three black students who all have this same problem. Sam is the biracial leader of the Black Student Union who openly rejects racism through her radio show on campus. Troy is the son of the Dean who dates the University President’s white daughter and tries to incorporate whiteness with his black personality by appearing non-threatening and cool. Lionel is a gay black student who is struggling to fit in with the white students, since prior experiences in high school shows that the black students will never accept him.
Simien uses these three to deal with issues of blackness, class and privilege along with many more to make a point about black people being conniving in racism. Firstly, Lionel Higgins is a gay sophomore who struggles to fit in. Throughout his high school years, experiences with black people have led him to believe that they will never accept him. His current experiences with white students are very similar to the ones during his high school years. Members of the resident hall he belongs to, “Garmin House”, torment him in both racist and homophobic ways.
He doesn’t have a place to fit in. He is treated as an outsider in the white and black community. Additionally, many people in American face these same problems. Most commonly, in many American schools. For example, Danielle Moodie-Mills states, “African American gay or gender-nonconforming youth who face some of the most hostile treatment in our nation’s schools.” Here, one sees that the problem Lionel Higgins faced happens to thousands of other kids for being black and homophobic. Therefore, Lionel feeling unwanted by the black and white community is a racial conflict that is real and happens everyday.
Secondly, Sam White is a biracial woman who hides her white heritage as she overcompensates her feelings of not being authentic by leading the Black Student Union (BSU) and hosting a campus wide radio show tackling issues of race relations at her predominantly white institution. However, Sam shows her white heritage by liking Taylor Swift songs and has a white-teacher’s assistant, Gabe, who she pushes away. In one scene, taking place in Sam’s room as members of the BSU hold their ears against their doors, Gabe confronts Sam on her identity performance: “You don’t understand. Girls like me—,” Sam says.
Gabe replies, “Have to pick a side? I’m so sick of your ‘tragic mulatto’ bullshit!” Here, we see Gabe frustrated at Sam for picking the BSU over their relationship, challenging her feelings of needing to “pick a side” while asking her to choose between him and the BSU members crouched outside. Sam hides her “whiteness” to avoid being bullied for being biracial. Sadly, this is common in America’s schools. In the article, “Multiracial Girls Open Up About Getting Bullied,” one girl named Dominique Sims is bullied because she is mixed. Her parents are African-American and white. It states that, “..
.taunted by two white female students… they repeatedly called her the ‘N-word,’ ‘hunky’ and ‘chocolate.'” In today’s world, bi-racial women and girls hide the side they are not “seen” as. For example, Sam sided with her black heritage since she “looked” like them. If she was to side with her white heritage, she would be mocked and tormented for not having light pigmentation of skin like theirs. Thus, Sam represents all the bi-racial women that hide one heritage in order to fit in. Finally, Troy Fairbanks is an all-around popular guy, president of Armstrong-Parker Hall of Residence at Winchester University, who happens to be the son of the University’s Dean.
Also, he dates the white daughter of the President of the University at the pressure of his father who claims that President Fletcher is less qualified and more skilled than he is but has still managed to rise higher than him. Troy is conflicted, largely separating himself from the experiences of other black people and enclosing himself in a place with privileges of wealth and connections. Troy’s dissociation and attempted consumption of privileges, which ultimately fail, force him to deny and hide parts of himself that are essential to his personality for fear of being perceived as “stereotypically black”. He knows he’s black, accepts his blackness, but due to his father’s hostility, he is forced to deny parts of his blackness and parts of himself to fit in with his white counterparts.
Even when he perceives the racism in his fellow students, especially his girlfriend who Sam calls out with “Dear White People, this just in, dating a black person to piss off your parents, is a form of racism,” he is forced to play it off to please his father. Troy’s character’s feelings are similar to many students who are being stereotyped for various reasons. Mainly, black males are stereotyped for not doing good academically. In the article, “Peer Pressure, Stereotypes Fuel Minority Students’ Struggles,” it states that, “.
..male minority students struggle academically and face disciplinary issues…societal forces of peer pressure and stereotypes.” One can see that Troy’s father eliminated this problem for him because he surrounded Troy with people who are white. Therefore, Troy hides his real nature to please his father who wants him to live a white lifestyle.
In conclusion, blacks are faced with racial problems everyday. People are bullied for things they aren’t in control of. The movie “Dear White People” shows many of the real tensions that people endure during their everyday lives. Some people hide their real personalities so they won’t be stereotyped, some are ridiculed because of their sexuality and race, and some hide one side of them in order to fit in with the other.
People shouldn’t be afraid of people who will judge them for what and who they are because they are humans like their white counterparts.