Dear White People Will Definitely Get Conversations Started

Slate's Culture Blog
July 22 2014 4:54 PM

Dear White People Will Definitely Get Conversations Started

tessa_thompson
Tessa Thompson in Dear White People.

Still from YouTube

“Racism is over in America. The only people who are thinking about it are Mexicans, probably.” So says the (white) president of the fictional Winchester University in the new trailer for Dear White People, writer-director Justin Simien’s debut film. It’s the kind of flagrantly off-base sentiment that inspired the movie, which evolved from a concept trailer based on Simien’s experiences at a predominantly white university to a Twitter account and eventually to a feature-length film that got raves at Sundance.

Tessa Thompson plays Sam, a radical activist described by another character as what would happen if “Spike Lee and Oprah Winfrey had some sort of pissed-off baby.” Sam uses her campus radio show to broadcast decrees that begin with the opener “Dear white people,” drawing attention to the racist behaviors her white peers engage in, oblivious to the offense they’re causing. In the midst of several racially-driven campus controversies, Thompson’s campaign stirs the pot, celebrated by some and renounced by others as an example of the very thing she’s trying to dismantle.

Advertisement

At Sundance the movie won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent. Simien, for his part, views the film not as a call to action, but as fodder for the kind of discussions we need to be having. “I hope it leads you to have conversations with your black friends, your white friends, all kinds of people about what you thought and how it made you feel,” he told an audience. The talented cast includes Teyonah Parris (Mad Men), Taylor Williams (Everybody Hates Chris), and Dennis Haysburt (24). Dear White People hits theaters on Oct. 17.

Eliza Berman is an intern in the culture department at Slate.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Do the Celebrities Whose Nude Photos Were Stolen Have a Case Against Apple?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 18 2014 1:34 PM Americans Fault Obama for Giving Them Exactly the Anti-ISIS Strategy They Want
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Doonan
Sept. 18 2014 2:00 PM On the Death of My Homophobic Dog I named him Liberace, but I couldn’t have chosen a less appropriate namesake for this coarse, emotionally withholding Norwich terrier.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Everyday That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 2:03 PM Ryan Adams’ New Song Is a Reminder That He’s One of His Generation’s Best Songwriters
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 1:24 PM Can the Celebrities Whose Photos Were Stolen Really Sue Apple? It may be harder to prove “harm” than it seems.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.