By Kim Rescate and Ana Pines
We drove to Los Angeles Oct. 18 for the premiere weekend of Justin Simien’s film, Dear White People. The film follows four black students at a prestigious, majority-white college. It’s a satire about “being a black face in a white place” as the promotional materials state.
The movie approaches important issues with a mild manner. The issue with this approach is that only some patrons will actually get the prejudice and discrimination that we face on a daily basis. Although, there’s something to be said when things like equal pay for equal work isn’t obvious to the majority.
Tension builds up throughout the film and ends with a controversial party thrown by one of the fraternities. The film shows each character struggle with their individual issues, from walking on eggshells in terms of family acceptance to trying to fit in by not stirring “controversy” with their white classmates which could be as simple as speaking up about unequal housing practices.
The main character, Sam, who is the host of the radio show “Dear White People” and (we find out later in the film) is half black and half white is not afraid to be outspoken and tired of being marginalized. Although on the outside she was very much “afrocentric”, she was struggling with her own identity as a biracial woman who felt like “she had to pick a side” to feel accepted. The movie doesn’t impose ideals on the audience. It presents the situations that we, as people of color, face in our daily lives. It, quite simply, shows our reality. It elicits laughter from the audience because we have dealt with these situations that are frustrating but at some point become sadly comical in the fact that we’re thinking, “This cannot be happening … again”. Even having a person of color in a position of power doesn’t guarantee that everyone’s rights will be upheld and concerns “lifted” as we see with Dean Fairbanks (Dennis Haysbert).
In the film, an invitation was sent to the students with outright racist language. Instead of outrage, white students showed up with racist “homemade” costumes. The party attendees had no issues appropriating other cultures.
As Halloween nears, these racist costumes will no doubt show up in your social media newsfeeds. The film shows several photos from recent years of racist parties from around the nation. This racism is very much alive in the LGBTQ community. From white gay men appropriating black women, someone making jokes about Asian culture because they’re dating an Asian person, mocking of Native American culture, to someone wearing a sombrero, an exaggerated mustache and a donkey. Being discriminated as an LGBTQ doesn’t give you some kind of “pass”. Something to think about: the clothing that you think is “cute” or “cool” means something entirely different to the cultures you’re taking them from. When you think of those things as costumes, you ignore the significance and make light of them. It’s offensive, it’s theft and it’s not harmless fun – it’s painfully racist.
Watch the film, take it in and learn something. Do not be the reason why films like this are necessary to show how much people of color have to deal with on a daily basis. For show times, visit www.dearwhitepeoplemovie.com/
Kim Rescate – Twitter: @krescate
Ana Pines – Twitter: @AnaPines1