What’s wrong with dear white people?

I really wanted to like to this film. I was enraptured by their marketing and the series of trailer released before the film were funny, and very very engaging. I wanted to like this movie, because as an anti-racism and diversity trainer, I welcome any opportunity to bring the issue of race to the forefront of our American minds and out of our subconscious where it usually hides coated in denial.

it is beyond clear that this issue needs healing and quickly. the daily recounting of dead black and brown young people either at the hands of law enforcement or as a result of the conditions that most black and brown youth are subjected to is sickening to the core. and the personal frustration I experience as I hear white people continue to insist that racism isn’t a player in these and other life endangering matters causes me to want to run screaming down the street often, more often than is conducive to the calm and balance demeanor than I strive for in life!

so I welcomed what appeared to be big screen attempt to talk about racism, internalized oppression and homophobia.

I am going to attempt to talk about this with our spoiling too much, because my opinion aside for a moment, I still think that people should see this film and talk about it. More on that in a bit.

This film takes on so so much.
parenting issues and family dynamics
college life and racism
college social class systems
homophobia on college campuses
homophobia in the African American community
bi racial family issues
the bi racial persons person struggle for identity
college life as it is devoid of integrity (the search for money)
reality TV and its actual lack of reality
social media as a tool for instant celebrity

And I am sure that there is more that I have failed to capture here. This film cast a very wide net in its desire to cover it all I wish that it had chosen one of the issues above, maybe even two and told a tight and meaningful story exploring in depth the issue cause and concern in the subject.

As it was I was left with a feeling of being slightly entertained and actually quite moved at times – but still very hungry for more. The film is not satisfying.

Also, with great sadness the film falls prey to an error which has plagued Hollywood since its inception and that it the issue of skin color and it perception. in this film, the most engaging person is a young bi racial African American women, she is hip funny brave and in a sincere process of self-discovery. it’s clear that she has benefitted from a middle class upbringing. she is involved romantically/ sexually with a white man and a man of color her collage. she is popular and a leader. we like her. we root for her.

and other the other end of the spectrum there is a dark skinned woman of color. she has managed to climb out of poverty to attend a prestigious college. unfortunately she is afflicted with a desire to be famous , her low self-esteem leads her to ultimately participate and facilitate the disrespect of her race. she is used sexually and dumped as the film ends. and she is the few characters for whom there is no growth, no healing or redemption.

This is an old poison pill in a Hollywood film and I am sad to see it resurface in a film that was advertising itself as a fresh look at the matter of race.

It took me a few days and actually 2 viewing for the reality of this to come clear for me. You see, I am a dark skinned African American woman. And all of my life I have had to balance my love for movies with the fact that movies don’t ever really seem to love me back. Dark skinned women in films hardly ever seem to far well. In classic films we are maids and mammies. In new films we are criminals, addicts, prostitutes, or sexual victims. We rarely end up with the eligible man, of any color, and we are rarely likable, although we may very much be portrayed and sexually available.

It took a few days and 2 viewing for this old pain to pierce through my denial. Because, you see, I really wanted to like this film. I really did. And at the end of the day , I do. I hope that this film is used to promote a good deal of conversation about all of the topics it sought to address. These healing conversation and hopefully, behavior change and healing are vitally necessary in the USA. They are as needed today and they were when and when this countries First Nations, people were being slaughtered, or during the middle passage, or the Jim Crow South. Now in the time of Michael brown and Trayvon Martin what has never truly been healed in this country is brought to our attention by artist for our consideration, and for this I am grateful.

And yet – the telling of this story on the back of a dark skinned woman of color while elevating her lighter skinned counterpart, in no way seems like a forward move. It’s more of the same, hatred, self-hatred, and despair.

Men do not fare that well in this move either but at least there is a much more diversity there. “Good men” who are both light and darker skinned men, and a very sweetly written and emotionally acted white male character – there are’ bad men’ , again of varied hues of skin, including white. Its women who felt to me to be the one dimensional losers in this tale – and the darkest skinned woman the biggest loser of all – how sad.

And so in this way the film is a mirror of our society – and begs the question; is it possible in a capitalist, corporate driven society to build together without exploitation on any level? That’s the question of our time. And we have to remain focused on finding the answer because, in my opinion, our time on this planet is running out.

I give this film 3 halos – as long as it’s being used as a tool for education. Via its flaws, it can be elevated as long as this is done consciously and with grounded facilitation!

Be well.


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