I have been following the trajectory of Dear White People for a solid two years. I watched the concept trailer multiple times and shared it widely. I was ecstatic when I found out an actual film would be made. The trailer offered a unique and hilarious look at diverse personalities of black students at a predominately white university in the post-Obama, not post-racial, all social media era.
The outspoken Samantha White (Tessa Thompson, who I haven’t forgotten from Veronica Mars) runs her radio show, Dear White People, on her majority white, rich Ivy League college campus. Between song breaks she wryly imparts advice to her white classmates such as, “The minimum requirement of black friends to have in order to not seem racist has just been raised to two.” White’s confrontational style ruffles feathers of all colors within the student body and the establishment. Eventually her strident opinions lead to an impromptu meeting with the (first black) Dean Fairbanks (Dennis Haysbert). They clash on several different ideological fronts: establishment vs. student, old guard vs. youth, Talented Tenth vs. radical ideology.
While Sam does receive a lot of support from the Black Students Union on campus, not everyone agrees with her confrontational style. Coco (Teyonah Parris) wants everyone to know her name and uses the expectations of blackness to blaze her own trail. She finds very little value in Sam's unabashedly confrontational methods and grows frustrated with the truth they may present.
Son of Dean Fairbanks and Sam's ex-boyfriend, Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P Bell) is kept on a tight leash by his father. Troy’s father constantly reminds him that he must work twice as good to get half as far. Dean Fairbanks believes that the only passion worth pursuing is being successful. Moreover, this success can only be achieved if Troy’s reputation is the opposite of controversial. Strong believers in the idea of The Talented Tenth, Troy and his father suppress individual desires in hopes of mainstream acceptance.
Troy and Coco, both tired of Sam’s brash behavior team up with university president’s son Kurt Fletcher (Kyle Gallner). Privileged Kurt is determined that Sam be put in her place and together they begin to plan a provocative racially themed party. Everything comes to ahead at this part; identities are questioned, discovered, and discarded.
Dear White People is smart, sharp, fearless, and hilarious. A very clear eyed view on what it is like to be a black face in a white space and what the myriad of ways black people navigate that space. This unique voice and vision is reminiscent and an homage to early Spike Lee and is destined to be just as much of a classic.