Trailer for Netflix Series ‘Dear White People’ Triggers Racial Controversy

Yesterday, Netflix revealed the first trailer, and date announcement, for their new original series ‘Dear White People’. The video, which currently sits at around half a million views, and a more than 95% dislike to like ratio, has sparked controversy among viewers who claim the trailer is promoting racism against whites. The TV adaptation of the 2014 Justin Simien film will chronicle the story of Samatha White, host of the radio show ‘Dear White People’ at the fictional Winchester University. The trailer features White on her radio show telling white students what they can and cannot be for Halloween this year. Specifically that they cannot be her, a black person.

Backlash to the video comes in response to videos like the infamous MTV ‘Dear White Guys’ fiasco, and claims that it becoming socially acceptable to be racist against white people because of the ‘privilege’ that they possess.Those opposed to the trailer claim that this is nothing more than the targeting of a specific race for ridicule, an action that would be vehemently opposed and shouted down were it to be against any other race than white people.

Many people online have already taken to cancelling their Netflix subscriptions in response to the trailer.

Supporters of the series claim that being opposed to a black woman telling white people they can’t do blackface only shows how necessary this show is. Justin Simien, creator of the 2014 film the show is based on, had this to say on Facebook;

The problem, claim critics, is not that White is telling white students they cannot use blackface, but the presumption that blackface is a thing that white students frequently do.

Cultural appropriation has been a hot button issue as of late. Recently, Yale Lecturer Erika Christakis was forced to resign over an email sent to students which “[suggested] that there could be negative consequences to students ceding ‘implied control’ over Halloween costumes to institutional forces.” Christakis believes that our world is becoming too sensitive, and that telling white individuals that they are not allowed to dress up as say, Pocahontas, because she was a Native American, is ridiculous. Members of other races would be allowed to dress as whatever they like, but white students are not allowed to dress outside of their race.

The idea that there are certain things minorities can do that white individuals can’t has been termed ‘reverse racism’, and it is exampled by movies like White Chicks, which features two African Americans wearing white face, where it is okay for minorities to make fun of white people and appropriate their culture but not the other way around. Opponents of the term say that reverse racism is nothing more than racial prejudice, and “Expressions of such assumptions do not constitute racism because they do not have the power/authority behind them (because of where they come from on the hierarchy) to affect widespread beliefs about the group, or to affect the authority, privileges, and access to resources of white people” (Via Ucalgary).

The content of the adaptation has yet to be seen, but it certain that the trailer has sparked outspoken opinions on both sides of the aisle. What the show truly contains? We will have to wait until April 23rd to find out.


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