The Southerner

Dear White People is illuminating and revolutionary

Frances Matejcek, Arts & Entertainment Editor

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The movie “Dear White People” has received so much hype recently that it would be surprising if you haven’t heard of it. It has brought many things into the public eye that are long overdue for attention. From unapologetically and openly discussing issues of race and privilege to providing a platform for Black representation in Hollywood, the movie breaks down countless barriers just by simply existing.

To quote the movie’s website, Dear White People “follows a group of African American students as they navigate campus life and racial politics at a predominantly white college.”

After Sam White, the host of the radio show ‘‘Dear White People” is elected head of the college’s traditionally Black residence hall, a number of events, including a problematic hip-hop themed party thrown by students of another residence hall, causes the movie’s four main characters to re-evaluate how they see race, and how they see themselves.

I’ll admit, I was nervous to see if the movie would live up to all the hype. When the credits rolled, I breathed a sigh of relief. Not only had it met my expectations, but it had exceeded them. It discussed race openly and did it in a thorough, thoughtful, and often funny manner. This was rounded out by the creative cinematography, presentation and acting.

The movie left very little to be desired. It could have easily glossed over the complexity of human perspective in race, but instead it dove right in.

Betty Mfalingundi, a junior, said it, “addresses a lot of grievances I personally have, and issues that I think get really glossed over.”

Senior Amari Vaughan agreed. After seeing the movie, she said, “that is exactly how I feel, that’s what I feel like I go through … so people will know now!” Vaughan expressed her appreciation for a movie that finally portrayed issues that had previously gone unspoken, even unnoticed by those who hadn’t experienced them.

In presenting many storylines, the movie avoided the pitfalls of over simplifying or trivializing the vast variety of problems people of color face.

By telling the story from four different perspectives it was able to look at issues of racism from four different sides. The election of Sam White, the movie’s website says, “sets up a college campus culture war that challenges conventional notions of what it means to be Black.”

To top it all off, the movie was presented in a way Mfalingundi called “properly satirical….Some people think satire is just yelling something offensive and then saying ‘just kidding’, but satire is self aware… satire is taking on things that you disagree with, or think are stupid, and portraying them in a way that shows people that it is harmful,” she explained.

“The big reason I think it’s good is that they took the humor aspect is for white people to understand without being seen as the enemy,” said Vaughan. “They could say it angrily and I would still get it, but then I feel like a lot more people would be not open to it.”

With humor, this movie brought up countless reasons on why all sorts of issues, from blatantly obvious to tiny and minute, are harmful.

The ideas that come to mind when we think of racism, such as blackface and the N-word were all presented in incredibly cringe-worthy moments. Students came to a ‘hip hop’ themed party decked out in grills, weave, blackface, and anything else stereotypically Black.

The character Kurt Fletcher, the University president’s son and symbol of all things white and ignorant, claimed the “hardest thing to be in the American workforce today is an educated white male,” bringing to mind plenty of real world articles I have read slamming affirmative action and denying the existence of privilege.

However, the movie also brought to light many other instances of racism that one, especially one who is white and therefore does not face these issues everyday, may not be quick to recognize.

“I don’t think there’s anyone [at South] who thinks the civil rights movement was a bad thing, but there are definitely people who do things like ask questions like ‘why can’t there be a dear Black people?’ or who think reverse racism is a thing,” said Mfalingundi.

The movie presented a lot of issues that, “a lot of people wouldn’t bat an eyelash [at]. They would probably participate, even people here at South,” said Mfalingundi. She explained it would be easy to see many students at South participating in an “African American themed party.”

Indeed, students at South could stand to learn a few things from the movie. As I saw white students in the movie holding fake guns and wearing chains I immediately thought of the pictures on Facebook I’d seen of middle class white boys flashing gang signals for fun, or of girls using ghetto and ratchet as insults. Never has this story been more relevant, in the United States and at South itself.

“We’re kind of sheltered in Minneapolis. We don’t see [racism] as blatantly; it’s a lot more institutionalized,” said Vaughan.

From discussing the problems with microaggressions to those with large spread institutionalized racism, “Dear White People” covers issues of racism that may not be as straightforward but still desperately need to be addressed.

Examples like these are the reason it is important for everyone to see the movie. As a white person, I come from a position of privilege and do not experience any sort of racism. Seeing this movie allows me to see flaws in how I may have treated issues of race and might have been racist myself.

The issues discussed in the movie run deeper than this at South as well. Vaughan observed that some of the mindsets of the students here are very similar to those in the movie.

“The thought process of subconsciously going to your group … I can see that being very similar to South’s structure and how we interact with each other.” Vaughan related the fact that students tend to make friends in their own racial groups to the students in the movies tendency to self segregate themselves, and therefore keep narrow mindsets.

The movie producers drove the relevance of the movie home at the end of the movie. As the credits scrolled they flashed newspaper article after newspaper article about students hosting parties similar to the one depicted in the movie at Ivy Leagues, state universities, and everywhere in between.

No one after seeing this movie can think ‘not me,’ because there is something in this movie that pertains to all of us, and all of our communities.

“I’m hoping that some people will be kind of embarrassed, to be frank, and they’ll realize that they look … super ignorant.” said Mfalingundi. “I’m hoping it’s going to help people understand some parts of their ignorance and help them to learn. Ignorance is not bad as long as you’re willing to grow.”

 

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About the Writer
Frances Matejcek, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Hello! I am Frances Matejcek and I am a senior at South. I hold the titles of both Arts and Entertainment Editor and Social Media Editor on the Southerner....

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Dear White People is illuminating and revolutionary