The Long Story, Sans Spoilers
"Dear White People," Samantha White, a biracial film major, student leader-slash-activist, and radio jockey says into a microphone, the contempt evident in her voice, "Here's a list of acceptable Halloween costumes: a pirate, slutty nurse, any of our first 43 presidents. Top of the list of unacceptable costumes? Me."
This, we soon find out, is a response. One that comes the morning after the white editors of a humor magazine throw a blackface party mockingly entitled "Dear Black People." Turns out, Sam White (yeah, that's her last name. Oh, the irony) and her friends have taken it upon themselves—in all ways possible—to call out the institutional racism on campus, and their white schoolmates are not happy about it. The retaliation? The party. The argument? It doesn't exist and you and your angry black friends are just making things worse.
And then it all goes downhill from there.
To complicate things further, the black students of Winchester all experience and cope with racism differently—and don't necessarily see eye to eye, paving room for the meatier parts of the show's already witty dialogue—but also giving light to the different standpoints within the community. Not all of them are liberal, aka "I'm going to call you out on your bullshit and broadcast it to the world" like Sam. Not all of them will rally the troops and start a riot (Reggie). Others prefer to stay in the background and write about it (Lionel), others choose the political way to deal with things—smile, suck up to the system, and pretend everything is going to be okay (Troy); others find ways to disrupt the system from the inside following the path of least resistance (Coco). Others may even think that the greatest form of rebellion is to be carefree and black (Joelle).
Each episode is told from a different point of view, highlighting the diverse backgrounds of these protagonists. We get to know each character better, slowly discovering their experiences with racism—from small things like not being deemed as beautiful as a child, or big things—and easily one of the heavier and more pointed moments of the show—like having a gun pointed to your face by school campus security—and how, ultimately, they choose to deal with their realities at the end of the day.
Oh, and it's narrated by the award-winning Giancarlo Esposito. How can you possibly go wrong with that?
The Honest Plot
It's the real world disguised as fiction, and set in an imaginary Ivy League school called Winchester University, where racism is rampant, and white, privileged people still insist that it's not their problem. What may look like your typical college trope featuring a couple of black kids fighting the system, is actually much more than that. It's relevant, honest, and funny—but at the same time delivers blow by serious blow of just how fucked up things are in America, more so: all over the world.
The Cast and Where We Last Saw Them
Logan Browning as Sam White
A fan favorite as Jelena Howard on VH1's Hit the Floor, Logan's breakout role was actually in 2005, alongside Zac Efron in the cancelled TV series, Summerland. Fun fact: She also played a Bratz doll in 2007. Oh, and she sings.
Marque Richardson as Reggie Green
You saw him as Reggie in the 2014 indie film version with the same title, but he also previously starred in All the Way and Detention.
DeRon Horton as Lionel Higgins
Last seen as Square in Burning Sands, DeRon has a couple of projects (Undying, Hurt, and Shotgun) lined up in the near future.
Brandon P. Bell as Troy Fairbanks
Also not new to Dear White People, Brandon reprises his role from the 2014 film. Aside from that, he's known for his appearances in the TV mini series, Ascension.
Antoniette Robertson as Colandrea "Coco" Conners
Raised in Jamaica, Antoinette discovered acting in college theater and has since starred in Hart of Dixie and most recently, Atlanta.
John Patrick Amedori as Gabe Mitchell aka white bae
Obscure reference but did you catch him in Timer (2009)? No? You should. He also starred in Aquarius, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and just finished production for After Darkness, a sci-fi film about (what else?) the end of the world.
Giancarlo Esposito as the Narrator
An award-winning actor, Giancarlo is best known for playing the role Gustavo "Gus" Fring on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
Did You Know?
1. There was a #boycottNetflix controversy surrounding Dear White People—long story short, butthurt white people didn't like what they were seeing and called for a complete boycott of Netflix. In the end, it only helped market the show. Good effort, though.
2. Dear White People is the only TV series with a predominantly black cast to get a 100 rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
3. Marque Richardson, who plays Reggie, and Brandon P. Bell reprise their roles from the 2014 film.
4. They finished filming the series (or season 1 if it gets picked up for a second season) on Election Day last year. The day Donald Trump was, unfortunately, elected as the 45th president of the United States.
5. Several high profile directors were tapped to direct some episodes in the series including Moonlight's Barry Jenkins, Tina Mabry (Queen Sugar), and Nisha Ganatra (Transparent, Better Things).
What I Think:
In an interview for BuzzFeed, writer, director and creator Justin Simien says, "We can't do this show and not 'go there'… We just can't. The thing is, we're in an era where people confuse bigotry and prejudice with racism. They're different things, and the reason it's important to call that out is because people who are oppressed by racism die. It's fatal to be black. And not to be black under certain situations or when you're of certain social classes; me, in this hoodie in the wrong part of this country, could get shot just for walking too quickly down the street or looking too long at the wrong person. That is the reality of our country. And to do a show that's supposed to be about the black experience and not go there felt so irresponsible. It's just a part of life—unfortunately."
I can't pretend to know what it is to be black. I'm not. I never will be. I may get looked down upon in other countries because I'm Asian, Filipino, and a woman, but the ugly truth is, at the end of the day, when it all boils down to it, the cops are not gonna shoot me without hesitation. But they will for a black boy, five years younger than me, because he didn't raise his hands to his head fast enough. This is the reality for some people—and this is exactly what makes Dear White People the show that it is. It is unafraid to call the system out on it's bullshit. It's unafraid to ~go there~ and show you how terrifying it actually is to live a day in their shoes.
Dear White People presents the realities of an inconvenient and much larger truth. One that a bunch of kids causing a riot won't solve. One that a TV series—despite how good it is—won't solve. And one that won't change overnight. Multi-layered and relevant, this is the kind of show we need to watch now. Now especially when racism, hate, sexism, and classism trump (pun intended) all the values we know to be good; especially in a world where people who are different—different race, different gender, different religion—can't walk around without feeling unsafe.
A poignant and powerful message, Justin Simien's masterful adaptation of his 2014 movie with the same title is a wake up call. One that is directed to a society where hate—not love—is a driving force that brings people together, where inequality—racism, sexism, classism—is tolerated, where opposing political views are capable of tearing a nation apart—and most of all, to you, dear reader—especially if you think this show is about you.
Some Other Takeaways From The Show:
If you still think racism and inequality don't exist after watching this series, then honey, I think it’s time for you to check your privilege.
That coming out scene though. I seriously expected Troy to throw a fit, but he didn’t. You go, Troybama
Why does this shit still happen! When are we going to learn to be better people?
I need to stay woke so I'm gonna share this on Facebook to look like I'm updated with the social political climate culture of our generation and then call people out for not being ~woke~ enough. It's not a competition. How woke you are compared to everyone around you is not gonna matter if you've got a gun pointed to your head.
Don't let the movement eat you. As Joelle so aptly put it, "Sometimes being carefree and black is an act of revolution." She's right. Go home, take care of yourself.
Also, Brandon P. Bell—daddy.
I'd Recommend It To:
People who think the show's title is racist. Please watch and…(I hate to be this girl but—) educate yourself.
Follow Lara on Instagram.