Dear White People & The “Well Intentioned” White Ally (Spoilers Ahead):
Dear White People has caused quite an uproar in recent weeks as the Netflix original was released, recently securing a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Personally, I believe that this series is one of the greatest that Netflix has released, and I finally felt like I saw my own experiences as a black person represented in a series, and not through stereotypical trope characters added for “comedic” purposes. Something that stood out to me in Dear White People happened in the Episode directed by Barry Jenkins, and I found it alarming how easy it was for me to predict how the overall situation would play out.
After a white friend says the n-word during a rap song and is called out for it, the situation escalates and Gabe decides to call Campus Security for hoping things don’t get out of hand. The situation starts with the white friend doing all sorts of mental olympics to prove he’d never use the word nigga in a negative fashion and has to do all in his power to prove he’s not a racist, continuously instigating the conversation that everyone clearly wanted to move on from; even stating that “it felt weird to censor himself”. Ultimately, Reggie has a gun pointed in his face and is carded by security while the white friend does not receive the same treatment. Shocking. I found that the moment that the situation started to escalate, I could already tell where things were going to end up. I knew that somehow Reggie was going to be the one who would be reprimanded in some way for putting a white person in their place, even though they were the one who was wrong.
It made me think of all the times that self-proclaimed white allies cause more harm to black bodies than good, strongly believing that they are helping us while simultaneously pushing us further into the waters we were already drowning in. The times that white allies share videos of black people being killed on Social Media to prove how outraged they are, forgetting to think about the black people in their audience that they are willing to expose to this type of content. While I understand the intention, you need to recognize when your actions are putting black bodies at risk further, and when you are actually helping. The reality is that performative activism doesn’t help us, it hurts us further.
Gabe argues that he had good intentions, and that he didn’t know things would turn out the way they did — I call bullshit. The treatment of black people when it comes to law enforcement has never been something that was out of sight, it’s incredibly visible. We see it in the way that black men will remove their hats when driving by a cop in order to seem like “less of a thug”. We hear it every time we hear stories about someone being carded on the streets for simply existing in a space. To think that Gabe, or any white ally, would think that things would play out in any other way doesn’t sit well with me. I have a really hard time believing that.
Needless to say, Dear White People is a fantastic series that I think everyone should watch. It will make you laugh, cry, etc. Till then, I’ll be waiting for season 2 to come out so I can binge watch.