We Should All Be Watching 'Dear White People'
Season 2 of Dear White People asks the big questions.
Freedom isn't always black and white.
Season two of Justin Simien's Dear White People on Netflix is still challenging and rewarding, tackling socio-political and racial dialogues in pop culture that have only amplified in recent times since Trump and Hillary went head-to-head. Chronicling the identity politics of Winchester's finest students, Dear White People is about intersectionality in the black community, a contemplative exploration of activism and free speech in all of its forms. Simien's script in season two is still sharp and nuanced; sometimes the show leans on heavy exposition to illustrate the complex ways minorities are portrayed in media and social discourse.
This season's satirical nature feels more dynamic with most of the main characters undergoing dramatic transformations in ideology. Sam (Logan Browning)—the host of Dear White People, a radio show at Winchester that engages racial discourse in response to the university's glaring racial divide—is a warrior with her words, but season two finds her struggling to reclaim her voice and, more importantly, stamina. As the microaggressions abound, it's clear Sam's black experience is forged in paranoia, guilt, and shame—something most of the leads like Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson), Troy (Brandon P. Bell), and Coco (Antoinette Robertson) experience.
Being black in America can often feel like an assault; Dear White People is about how black communities repair and rebuild their narratives in opposition to ignorance and, in Reggie's (Marque Richardson) case, violence. It's convenient, then, that this show is also largely about education, how we are all shaped through ideas, stories, platitudes, social media, and our parents—information is a dangerous currency. Staying woke naturally implies a type of performance and it's here, somewhere in-between the Malcolm X quotes and dashikis (conveniently purchased from Amazon), where one must question what he's really fighting for. Besides, Dear White People is more of an exchange of ideas; seeking a resolution from this series is like trying to absolve America's history of slavery.
We are reminded just how undervalued black bodies are in TV and media. Even in 2018, a lot of us could use a how-not-to-be-racist-and-awful-in-the-workspace demo. Of course, Winchester is fictional, its students merely reflecting discussions that many other campuses and pretentious sorority members have discussed. Season two is asking some of the bigger questions: How much of the black experience is made up of trauma? Who's responsible for initiating change and why is change often met with eager opposition? And is it okay to be angry?
Often, the things that feel right and feel good are the hardest things to protect. Dear White People communicates the perils of activism, of being woke every minute of every day. These discussions will never get easier to have, but we cannot afford to stop having them. If this show makes you uncomfortable…good. Sink into that feeling and maybe try to learn something along the way; freedom isn't always black and white.
Shaun Harrisis a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.
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