As soon as Netflix announced it was adapting Justin Simien’s 2014 film into an original series, white people began protesting Dear White People. They claimed that show was anti-white and called for a boycott of the entire streaming platform. It’s a ridiculous reaction to a series that is about students of colour fighting for their humanity at a predominantly white institution. Somehow, critics of Dear White People are convinced that it’s an example of double standards in politically correctness.
One of the questions that keeps coming up for the offended parties is: “What if there were a show called Dear Black People?” One user said that “cities would burn” if this alternative title came to fruition. However, he’s wrong. Should white people take advantage of a series called Dear Black People to speak accurately about the power dynamic between us, the commentary on race could be just as fruitful as that in Dear White People.
According to BuzzFeed, a 21-year-old Twitter user named Reginald McGee felt just as inspired by this possibility. Taking the directive to “imagine if there were a show called Dear Black People” to heart, McGee suggested a possible theme for the show in a tweet of his own. “Dear Black People... I'm sorry for our history of oppression and genocide.” His response was so on point that other people joined in on the brainstorm.
Other users on Twitter took this as an opportunity to address cultural appropriation, stereotypes, the prison industrial complex, slavery, white privilege, and even the racist responses to Dear White People. Maybe it’s just me, but it looks like McGee’s tweet prompted the diverse pitch meeting that Hollywood has been struggling to nail.
McGee told BuzzFeed that he felt compelled to respond because “the history of this country shaped racism to only go one way and that the 'double standard' lacks historical context.” Which is completely true. However, I think the bigger point is that they’re wrong. Sure, if people want to use Dear Black People to regurgitate the same harmful narratives about Black folks or contextualise race in a way that doesn’t acknowledge privilege and oppression, then we have a problem. This would also be the case if the message of Dear White People was, “You guys are on the right track.”
This online dialogue proved that some white people are way too quick to defend their right to be problematic, instead of working to be better.