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Can “Dear White People” wake America up?

This past weekend, I had what seemed like my umpteenth argument about race relations. Cards right on the table, I’m a white, middle-aged liberal, who grew up in a big city, and now lives in an affluent suburb. Some of you are whispering “bleeding heart” under your breath, right? Call it what you want, but I have considered myself in tune with the race issue in America for a long time, and I think I understand it better than most that look like me. The problem is, and always has been…white people. And there’s still a long way to go as far as educating the white masses regarding their shortcomings. For one example, my recent “discussion” began with a woman telling me just how unbiased and accepting of all races she is…always a sign of trouble. Soon to follow was a laundry list of about ten things she hated about African-Americans. Of course, there were no African-Americans in the room at the time. White people feel very safe in expressing their opinions on “people of color”, when everyone present is the same shade as them. I’ve experienced this phenomenon hundreds of times. They will say just about anything against the black race in a vanilla room. I usually let them blather on for a while, and then I tell them how ridiculous they sound. It’s usually followed by them saying, “I’m not racist”. Well, yeah…you certainly are.

Hey, I’m not going to change the world, and neither is one movie. But I sure am glad that something like “Dear White People” is getting released to theaters in 2014. It’s not a cure…but it’s a step in the right direction. “Dear White People” is the story of a quartet of African-American students at an Ivy League school, who are unhappy with the attitudes of their fellow students who are white. Tensions come to a head over an African-American themed Halloween party, thrown by white campus students, and the attitudes and stereotypes the gathering perpetuates. “Dear White People” wowed them at Sundance earlier this year, and the trailer suggests that it’s going to be a tongue-in-cheek social satire, targeting our supposed “post racial” America. Will it turn out to be the most important feature about the racial divide since Spike Lee’s masterpiece, “Do the Right Thing”, hit theaters in 1989? That’s way too much to hope for. But if black filmmakers just keep chipping away… “Dear White People” was written and directed by Justin Simien, and it is his feature debut. It stars Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P. Bell and Marque Richardson. Dennis Haysbert also supplies a major role. Will white people in America head to theaters to see it for themselves? I doubt it, but some will get their chance, on October the 17th.

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