By IRENE PANIS
Netflix’s newest series, Dear White People, has been causing quite the stir since its release this past April. The trailer for the series has garnered nearly 1.5 million views since it was uploaded to YouTube last month, and with a dislike-to-like ratio of 3:1, it’s clear that many people do not feel too happy about it.
Based on the 2014 film of the same name, Dear White People follows several students of color at a predominantly white Ivy League school that claims to be post-racial.
Though the show focuses on the African-American students at the university, it makes a point to demonstrate that their experiences with race are not exactly the same. There is Sam, who struggles between dodging the controversy surrounding her campus radio show as well as maintaining her relationship with her white boyfriend. There is Lionel, a meek writer for the school newspaper who is secretly crushing on his roommate. There is Troy, the head of the school’s black student union who tries desperately to live up to his father’s expectations.
The series is teeming with characters of different personalities and backgrounds, and none of them exhibit the harmful stereotypes that are sometimes portrayed in other TV shows. In fact, the show’s writers make sure to actively stray away from those stereotypes.
During an argument between Gabe, Sam’s boyfriend, and Reggie, another black student, Gabe asks, “What are you gonna do, hit me?”
Without a beat, Reggie replies, “It might surprise you, but I don’t use my fists to solve problems.”
This is just one tiny, blink-and-you-miss-it example of the social commentary present in the series.
But the social commentary in the fifth episode, Chapter V, is unmissable and is equally as heartbreaking as it is infuriating. When Reggie hears his white friend sing a lyric including the n-word and asks him not to use it again, an argument breaks out. The campus police eventually arrive and, seeing the argument get physical, immediately hold Reggie at gunpoint and demand his ID. The white student, however, is not treated this way. The reality of this scene is so hard-hitting that viewers can’t help but feel chills watching it.
Many of the series’ negative reviews stem from the claim that it is racist against white people. But in my opinion, the show is not meant to be offensive. I think it’s meant to educate people. The show was made by black producers and writers and consists of black characters; its purpose is to tell their side of the story.
Some have said that the show’s message is too aggressive or that the writers of the show come off as angry. But after centuries of racism in the forms of slavery, hate crimes and microaggressions, they are completely justified in their anger.
In the first episode, during a discussion regarding a blackface party on campus, a girl pipes up, “I thought racism was the kind of thing that only happened in the 50s or in BuzzFeed articles.”
But Dear White People shows its audience that that is the furthest thing from the truth.
Dear White People is currently rated 6.4/10 on IMDb and is available to stream on Netflix now.