“Dear White People”: Practice What You Preach

In the first episode of season two of the Netflix original series Dear White People, the main character, Samantha White, is watching a parodied episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Man standing with a hat on
Justin Simien, creator of “Dear White People”
(Photo by Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.com)

She heckles the character who’s supposed to represent Elisabeth Moss (the main actress of The Handmaid’s Tale) and makes a derogatory joke about Scientology.

What’s ironic is that a show that is so heavy-handed with its messaging about staying woke and ending discrimination against minorities could also be so bigoted.

And as a gay man of color, I’m sure Justin Simien, the show’s creator, has been on the receiving end of plenty of bigotry.

That’s why my eyes rolled so hard I almost fell out of my chair when I started that episode—and promptly stopped watching it. Girl, bye.

What’s annoying is that Justin Simien and the creators of Dear White People seem to thoroughly understand the damaging effect that institutionalized bigotry can have on a group of people.

In season one, a character named Lionel struggles with his identity as a gay, black man— receiving uncomfortable treatment from black, white and straight people, he feels like he doesn’t fit in anywhere. This show is hip to the fact that intersectional discrimination based on race and sexuality is a pervasive, systemic problem.

If you’re going to pretend to stay woke (and make a whole TV show about it), you should actually try to.

In another episode, a cop shows up to a runaway party and pulls his weapon on one of the black characters, Reggie Green—a scene which highlights the systemic racism experienced by so many people of color at the hands of law enforcement. Obviously not fair, right?

Racist and homophobic tropes have been repeated in the media, TV and movies since the dawn of television. Things are only now just starting to improve, over 50 years after the Civil Rights Act.

Man signing a document with a crowd around him
Lyndon B. Johnson signing into law The Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. Martin Luther King Jr. is among those gathered around him. (Public Domain photo)

So what about other forms of systemic bigotry? Is it so hard to understand that there has been a systemic media campaign of discrimination against Scientologists, touting disinformation that has been disproven time and time again?

Maybe Justin Simien and the show’s creators do understand, but they just don’t care.

Scientology has been legally recognized as a religion in every sense of the word for almost 40 years. We’ve had enough.

If you’re going to pretend to stay woke (and make a whole TV show about it), you should actually try to, and apply your ideals of inclusivity to everyone—regardless of their religious beliefs.

Bigotry doesn’t feel good, does it?

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