Are biting statements, opinions & arrogantly crafted answers the solution?
The movie, Dear White People, was released in 2014. I haven’t seen it yet.
Yup, I’m an African American, Black, Chocolate person who hasn’t seen it yet.
It‘s’ on my list of films to see this summer, as I’m very curious now that I’m mentally munching on each episode of the Netflix series with the same title.
This satirical com-dram is less than 30 minutes an episode; good thing because every character’s response almost demands a twice pause and rewind to make sure you don’t miss one word and/or your opportunity to interpret, in your own unique way, the biting social commentary.
I have no criticism or judgement either way about this film, the Netflix series, the producers, the writers, the actors, etc.,
I simply have a few observations and some questions that this series has provoked.
I went to school during the 70s and 80s.
As a kiddie pop, I walked the all-black elementary school hallways in the inner-city, then in an attempt to steep us in a better educational experience, my parents moved my brother and I to a predominantly white school system in the suburbs when I was 12 and starting what we then called junior high school.
Even though this series is set on an Ivy League campus, as I view Dear White People, memories of my school days, as a collective, flood my mind like it was yesterday.
I did not attend an Ivy League college, but I did attend college as a non-traditional student on a predominantly white campus, so the experiences are comparable.
In many ways, the issues are the same. Some of the differences include access to cell phones, broader and more honest dialog about sexual orientation and preferences, and brown-skinned students with more access and power.
Some of the character representations, as I perceive them, are interesting —
- the diehard “black power” characters, African American, mid brown to blue black dark skin tones, various natural hair textures that fall primarily on the side of kinky coils, who perceive they have lots to prove, always angry
- the mixed race diehard “black power” characters, African American, fair to mid brown skin tones, wavy-haired textures, who perceive they always have to prove their blackness, always angry
- the “black membership” characters, African American, dark brown skin tones, straddling the cultural fence who really want to be accepted by the dominant culture so they “act and talk white” and don coifs of long straight hair (weaves), they aren’t 100% down for the cause, but they’re toying with the idea of being angry and not quite sure of the consequences
- the “real” African Americans, immigrants from the continent of Africa, understand the cause but don’t really “understand” the cause, is oftentimes not cool with being lumped in with the US African Americans (the wanna be’s), they are angry, too, but not for the same reasons
- other character representations are in the mix, but they’re not as important to the main story line
The dialog is intelligent, smart, funny and cruel at times, they certainly get their points across.
Each time I sit and watch this, I’m intrigued and I’m also challenged in that I wonder how all of this will evolve in US culture over time.
I have lots of questions:
- How long will racial and ethnic clubs continue to exist on college campuses?
- How long will there be specific classes and majors devoted to the concentrated study of minority groups?
- How long will people of varying shades of brown skin continue to differentiate, separate, secretly dismiss and fight among themselves?
- How long will brown skin people feel that they always have a race card in their back pocket to play, when necessary, or in some cases when not necessary, they just see it as a fun opportunity to use it as a power play?
- How long will some whites living today across the existing generations continue to feel guilt across the continuum about our country’s history of slavery?
- How long will some brown people continue to believe that any stub or situation that doesn’t go their way is racially motivated?
- How long will brown women or men feel judged, criticized or outright dissed — real or imagined — because they’ve fallen in love with or choose to date someone of another race?
- How long will we continue to talk about institutional racism?
- How long will February be Black History month?
- How long will we so easily and longingly desire to slap the label of racism or reverse racism on anyone who disagrees with our point of view when arguing or discussing these issues?
- How long will be scream at, fight, punish and/or kill one another during racially and ethnically charged conversations?
- How long will we continue to identify ourselves and others primarily based on the color of our skin or region in which we were born?
- How long will we see playing the role of victim as a career option?
- How long will we arrogantly believe that we or our actions cannot be racist if we’re considered part of the minority group?
- When will we experience an actual, real, genuine shift in these areas?
- Are we going to be talking about this in the same way 20, 50, 100 years from now in the same way we are and have been talking about issues related to race, ethnicity, power, access, etc. for the past 20, 50, 100 years?
I’ve got a lot more questions.
I suppose this is where I’m supposed to tie a bow on my summary with some personal conclusions and a string of cumbaya words similar to ‘can’t we all just get along,’ but I’m not. That would be stupid; I know better.
I don’t have any answers.
And I believe that individuals and groups who collectively believe they have the answers who meet in school auditoriums, conference rooms, court rooms, on the street in protest or anywhere else folks gather to address these issues don’t have any answers either.
What I do have are tons of questions.
These issues won’t be solved with statements and answers.
As a child, I watched my mom passionately engaged in the fight, in her own way, for voter’s rights, civil rights. She had a strong voice and a full heart for justice.
I also watched that flame in her soul slow to a flicker, then to smoke, then to nothing.
She eventually turned to religion as her personal solution (a long story for another time).
As a kid, it was both fascinating and painful to watch.
Things have certainly changed since those days, as my early thirty-something sister doesn’t have to change my niece’s diaper in a bathroom labeled “colored” like my mom had to do when I was a baby in the 60s.
We can apply to attend any college we want, doesn’t mean we’ll get in (for a variety of reasons, some of which may be racially or ethnically related), but there was a time when we couldn’t even attend at all.
There are millionaires and billionaires in our camp who wield power of various sorts on a variety of levels in our society. Very few, if any, were experiencing this kind of wealth and status in the 60s.
I could go on with more examples of the progress we’ve (all brown skin tones and hair textures) witnessed and experienced over the past century, especially the past few decades.
No matter, I’m still left with tons of questions.
Dialog is important.
Statements, opinions and arrogantly crafted answers are not.
Nothing happens in the professing, everyone just continues to boil and spew.
Could asking more questions to provoke thought and push the door of empathy open be a better recourse?
I don’t know, I just have tons of questions.