Dear White People
I spend a lot of time watching movies. Last week I decided to see a film called Dear White People. I hesitated a lot because I'm fed up with clichés about black people.
In France, the right-wing parties clichés consider black people as born-criminals, assisted parasites, primitive sub-beings whose bloodline descents straight from apes. Their single quality is physical strength, apart from that they only have defects.
The left-wing parties consider black people as poor victims who must absolutely be helped. They are brave beings who deserve a glorious statue to compensate for centuries of oppression. As a bonus, miscegenate people are very lucky because their double culture is a considerable asset. What a joy to be the union of 2 different worlds! Long live the children of all colors who pay rainbow tribute to mother-earth! Hurray!
Whether cruel or naive, I'm tired of these stupid clichés that don't match my personal history as miscegenate woman. Curiosity finally swept my last hesitations, I took the risk to get out of the movie theater in a grumpy mood.
From the very first images and dialogues, I was mesmerized. I didn't left the theater in a grumpy mood. I was even dazzled and hilarious. Usually when black people are in movies, they are slaves, immigrants, undocumented... But we never see the blacks from middle and upper classes. “Dear White People” does it, we can see black students in an fancy predominantly white university.
I decided to watch it again a few days later. I had to hurry. It was cast in a small room, this meant that it would be screened for one or two weeks at most. In the meantime I took care to do some research on the internet because I'm not so American culture savvy. There were some details that I had not understood the first time.
Surprise: the film was screened in a bigger room, it was packed. It was pretty amazing because this movie had no promotion, I hadn't seen any advertisement in newspapers or public transport, no trailer anywhere, not a word on the radio... nothing . After the second session, I left the theater even more delighted that the first time. So I went back to see it again, the size of the room had increased, still crowded.
Seeing all these people who had come to watch this understated movie, I almost had tears in my eyes before each session. I found incredible that word of mouth worked so well for a film that dares being smart, intimate, insolent and caustic on such a sensitive topic. I don't know why all these people come to watch it. I only know my little personal perspective. I'm addicted to “Dear White People” for several reasons.
This film shows that skin color issues can be a problem for everyone: white, black and miscegenate people. This view is rather relevant to my own experience.
It is true that one just needs to open the newspapers to see trash stories of racism, it still exists, we all know that very well. But I must also admit that I have often seen Africans denigrating themselves, behaving in a servile way, exaggerating their "blackness" or displaying an excess of false pride. I have to admit that I feel very bad in the streets when black women who whiten their skin, look at me with hatred or sadness in their eyes.
As a miscegenate person, I have experienced racism from white people and racism from black people. I have been racist toward white people and racist toward black people. I have been racist toward myself. Sometimes I was too white, not black enought. Sometimes I was too black, not white enought. When I was going to the French School of Lomé in Togo, I was unconsciously swapping my identity several times a day. It's only in October 2013, at 38 years old, that I finally succeded in making peace with this skin color issue.
Overall, the white students of “Dear White People” are not racist. Some of them have awkward behaviors and inappropriate attitudes without really being aware of it. I used to have afro hair. It's really weird to be constantly fiddled like a sheep or a chihuahua, but as the intention was not bad, I used to comply, feeling slightly ridiculous. But when people plunge their hand into your hair without asking permission, now that turns out to be upsetting and insulting.
Some other white students enjoy themselves stupidly by caricaturing the clichés peddled by the media about black people. The media stage exaggerated stereotypes, out of pure commercialism. It is meant to attract everyday people's attention, providing them with complete change of scenery, using shocking images which are far from reality. This applies to many areas. The media show vain and partygoers black thugs, covered with chunky jewelry, addicted to drugs, when in real life the majority of black people work, pay taxes and party on weekends, like everyone else. The media exhibit bold provocative and nude women, while in real life, they are rather dressed and reserved. The media show more than eccentric drag queens, when the majority of gays live like black people :-) they work, pay taxes and party on weekends.
The only actual racists of the movie, those who are arrogant, scornful and proud of it, are the elites, the leaders of the world and that is also relevant to my personal life. They are the ones who organize the society so they set up the discriminations that they see fit. I wonder if this is a side effect of the search for social power. When we want to control a population then it should better be uniform. When everyone is the same, we know which string to pull in order to trigger a specific reaction. Diversity complicates the exercise of power. Black skin are stains amid this white world. Gays are stains among married couples with children. Marginalized people are stains among the domiciled taxable taxpayers. It would be logical that social power mongers hate people who don't fit into the standard patterns of society.
I have been personally moved by the little "mellado" girl who feels uncomfortable in public with her father.
I spent my childhood in Lomé, capital of Togo. When I was somewhere with both my parents then it was fine. Everyone could guess that we were a family. They could see that I was their child, even if my appearance was completely different from theirs. By cons I was hating to go somewhere alone with my father. People had smiles that were making me feel very uncomfortable. When my father was introducing me saying : "She is my daughter" then people were smiling a lot more and I was feeling even more uncomfortable.
The reason was simple. White single males who were in Togo used to take the opportunity to have sex with little girls. Therefore, the sight of a single white man with a black girl could only have one meaning for the people. Despite the denials of my father, they were considering me as his underage private whore.
I could write a whole book with the vagaries of miscegenation. There are some good things but there are also many bad things.
It is true that in general miscegenate people must pick a side but usually it is the side that picks them. When I am in France, black people treat me like their "sister", we come from the same continent, we have the same blood... in short, they consider me a 80% African. But when I go to Togo, these same Africans treat me like a tourist. We are no longer family, I am a foreigner who is passing by in their country. I quickly noticed that white people do the same. When they are in Togo, they treat me as a "compatriot", I am a 80% French citizen. But when they go back to France then I become an immigrant who has the right to settle in their country because they are open-minded and generous.
In fact, it's simple, the minority automatically claims the miscegenates while the majority treats them as strangers. The whites are a minority in Africa so the miscegenates are white there. The blacks are a minority in Europe so the miscegenates are black there. We cannot say that miscegenate people pick a side, the circumstances choose for them. Wherever they go, miscegenate people are always part of the local minority.
Whenever I watched the movie, the same thing always happened. At some point of the story, we can see a young white man kissing a young black man. I have always heard bursts of dismay or noisy demonstrations of disregard in the room. These came from the shocked black audience and it made me laugh. It makes me laugh to see them facing their own intolerance. Do they know that director Justin Simien is also an androphile? Maybe this allowed him to be able to take a caustic and detached view on society. He may have suffered from discrimination in his own community, which itself claims to suffer from discrimination. How ironic.
That also matches my experience. I am a gynephile. I heard an African in France hypocritically saying that he could easily understand me. I knew he had a request for me that day. I knew perfectly well that if we had been in Africa, he would have stoned me without mercy. At one point of my life, I was thinking about living in Togo. I asked my mother how it would go on, given my emotional orientation. She said it would go badly. Let's keep in mind that if 2 gays are caught together in a bed in Togo, they reap a 3 years sentence in jail and a heavy fine. I'm so lucky. In some other African countries gay people face death penalty.
Intolerance is not the privilege of white people. Black people are like everyone else. They have their little bunch of intolerance and discrimination, sometimes leading to hatred and blind violence.
What I most hold dear is that this movie jostles another cliché. Usually black people have a hard and strong image. They are solid as a rock. One can inflict anything on them, they always overcome with a smile. They are able to survive any hardship because they are made of titanium. That's why they can be enslaved, because they are tireless and indestructible.
Hell no! Here, the masks fall. Black people are looking for affection just like any human being. Like everyone else, they are weakened by the lack of affection. They are able to sacrifice themselves if they hope to get a little consideration.
Troy the oofta sacrifices his youth and even his entire life to win his father's affection. Yet he likes to have fun, he has communication skills and it seems like he would be on TV. Colandrea the nose-job deprecates herself in the hope of getting the affection of anonymous crowds. Yet she is fitted with strength of character and a great sense of dignity. Samantha the 100% hides her true nature to keep the affection of her community. Yet she has a deep sense of justice, a lot of imagination and she is quite open-minded. Lionel the natural, who has always been rejected by everyone, is looking for a way to love himself. He is ready to give away his brilliant talents when opportunists show him a little interest.
“Dear White People” shows that all human beings have the same longings. They are lulled into the same illusions. They commit the same desperate acts. As a magnifying glass, the cultural issues of the movie amplify the drama that unfolds in any human life. Whether black or white, all human beings are looking forward to be loved and they are desperate to get there.
I often go back to watch the movie. It's like a drug. I want to enjoy before it disappears from the scene...