Some of the Internet’s most popular—and comical—content pokes fun at the subtleties of racism. The Shit White People Say series, the Stupid Shit White People Say series and the Dear White People trailer (now so popular it might be made into a full-length movie) are just a few of the online parodies that have gone viral in the past year.
What they all have in common is a pinpoint focus on the increased incidents of “friendly prejudice,” the insensitive and stereotypical things—from using urban slang when talking to Black friends and curiously asking to touch a Black person’s hair—that Whites often say to Blacks.
Online humor—going viral instead of taking to the streets—seems to be the most effective and disarming way for a younger generation of Blacks to raise awareness of these more subtle forms of oppression. And the online movement that began with blogs and amateur videos has spawned a more professional form of protest, including satirical short film projects. At least one of those short films might hit the big screen if the creators have their way.
The Dear White People movie is one such project. Billing itself as a “satire about being a Black face in a White place,” it follows the stories of four Black students at an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out after White students throw an African-American-themed party.
Video clips from the project’s Tumblr page show Black students delivering the following tongue-in-check lines: “Dear White people, the number of Black friends required to not seem racist has now been raised to two. Sorry,” and “Dear White people, listening to Flo Rida does not make you ‘practically Black.’”
“Being a Black person with ambitions to contribute to the greater American culture presents a unique dilemma,” says Justin Simien, the film’s writer and director. “We have more rights than ever before, but when the leader of the free world, who happens to be Black, has to repeatedly answer to claims he’s secretly [not a U.S.] citizen, it’s clear the culture can be discouraging if not downright opposed to the progress of minorities. The aim of [the movie] is to boil down this unique experience.”
The “unique experience” Simien discusses has a more scientific name: racial microaggresions. It’s a term coined by Harvard psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe the “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of other races.”
Simien hopes to use social media (and increased awareness of the need to address the issue of racial microaggressions) to raise funds to turn his laugh-out-loud trailer into a full-length feature.—KC