I tried watching the first episode of “Dear White People” on Netflix yesterday. I couldn’t finish it. I found it painful. I watched as this beautiful woman of African dissent spoke in generalizations about people of European dissent. She said “white” people were patting themselves on the back for letting “black” people even attend the same school as them. “White” people in this world were painted as out of touch and in denial about racial inequalities. And even though main character Samantha White’s radio show was broadcast by a campus radio station, I couldn’t help but feel as though she were talking to and about me and to and about anyone who looks like me. I suppose one could say it is good that I felt discomfort in the first 7 minutes of this episode. Perhaps the goal of this kind of conversation is to get people like me to more readily recognize social inequalities people of African dissent face in the United States. At the same time, when you address all of us, you assume not one of us is currently willing to recognize these inequalities. If all of the effort put forth in recent decades has not inspired a single “white” person to see these social inequalities, what makes you think your words on your radio show will sway them? Of course Samantha White is only a character. As I couldn’t get past the first 7 minutes of the first episode, I cannot claim to have a solid understanding the writers’, directors’, creators’ vision and message. I just don’t want to be painted as the villain as a result of the color of my skin. Then again, maybe the issue is I just don’t know what else I can do to break the cycle. There is so much division in our country. There are so many voices saying the color of our skin defines us. And we are so entrenched in this belief, we never even stop to realize these labels of “black” and “white” are not incredibly accurate.
During a lunch break at work last week, I witnessed a coworker of mine passing around a cartoon for everyone to see. Her tone became somewhat apologetic when she showed me:
After laughing about it with other coworkers, she told me she wan’t sure if it was funny. I’ve heard this co-worker speak generally about “white” people on other occasions. But to lump us all together is not only inaccurate, it is harmful. It creates greater division. And who benefits from division of the lower classes? “Divide and rule (or divide and conquer, from Latin dīvide et imperā) in politics and sociology is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divide_and_rule). After those 7 minutes of “Dear White People”, I put on youtube video – an interview with a comedian. I’ll admit, my first thought when I saw the interviewer was a young female of African dissent was “Oh no”. I anticipated, because of the color of her skin and the color of mine, that she would begin accusing me racism, entitlement, and thievery. I realized within a couple seconds how foolish such an assumption was. It is amazing how easily influenced we are by these superficial labels. This is a call to action: Please do not let these arbitrary demographic details define us. Division only works to keep us subservient.