Opinion: ‘Dear White People’ addresses contemporary social issues

“Dear White People” does an excellent job of drawing back the curtains that many individuals have been hiding behind when it comes to racism and its part in today’s society. Although many people believe racism is a part of our past and it is not currently a part of our present, “Dear White People” challenges this way of thinking by telling the “fictional” story of four black students who are trying to navigate their way through an Ivy League college, consisting of a primarily white student population.

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Imagine a world where unconscious and conscious racism runs rampant amongst it’s citizens, even though society deems it a problem of the past. Now imagine that world to be the present society we are a part of.

“Dear White People” does an excellent job of drawing back the curtains that many individuals have been hiding behind when it comes to racism and its part in today’s society. Although many people believe racism is a part of our past and it is not currently a part of our present, “Dear White People” challenges this way of thinking by telling the “fictional” story of four black students who are trying to navigate their way through an Ivy League college, consisting of a primarily white student population.

With a cast including Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner and many more noteworthy actors, director Justin Simien sheds light on the various struggles that black students face while attending colleges today, including unintentional racism and racial bias . In this satirical drama, Simien focuses on four black students who attend Winchester University, an Ivy League college, where a riot arises after a student organization holds an African American themed party.

Although this story is fictional, the party that sparks the riot is based on actual racial parties that have been hosted on campuses across the nation, including the University of Florida, Penn State, Auburn and many others. These parties not only show that racism is still an issue that needs to be discussed, but also shows that the events that occur in “Dear White People” are not exaggerated.

The characters in the film vary widely. There is soft spoken Lionel, played by Tyler James Williams, who gets shuffled from dorm to dorm because he lacks connection to the “black group.” And his counterpart Sam, played by Tessa Thompson, the outspoken host of a provocative campus radio show called Dear White People. Although the film is a drama, the characters help make the film satirical by providing audiences with comedic lines and behaviors.

“Dear White People” was first presented at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and has since hit limited theaters around the United States. For viewing in the Knoxville area, showtimes can be found at Regal Downtown West Cinema 8.

Edited by Jessica Carr