There’s a certain weight you have to carry as a Black person or a member of any other marginalized group (see also: woman, LGBTQ) who attends a predominately White institution. What makes Dear White People one of Netflix’s best shows is the discourse it creates around the microaggressions that take place on campuses such as the fictional Winchester University, whose history is rooted in White supremacist capitalist patriarchy and how that correlates to the real world. Season Two, or Volume 2 as it is labeled, does a fantastic job of continuing the exploration of race, sexuality, free speech and the digital world.
Where the first season used much of its time re-establishing the premise of the film, the latest season does a better job of developing characters and storylines within the half-hour timeframe of each episode. This current season quickly settles into a more rhythmic voice, making the series much easier to watch.
Volume Two picks up two weeks after the chaos of this event. We see how our leads are handling personal issues. Samantha (Logan Browning), Dear White People radio host, is still struggling with her biracial identity. Troy (Brandon P. Bell) is trying to find an identity of his own after rebelling against his father, Dean Fairbanks (Obba Babatundé). Lionel, (DeRon Horton) Troy’s roommate and one of a small group of Black journalists, is exploring his gay sexuality. Reggie (Maque Richardson) is experiencing PTSD as a result of police assault. Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson) is confronting dark-skinned insecurities as a result of feeling second best to Sam. Coco (Antoinette Robertson) is playing the “White whisperer” at the newly integrated residence hall to try to make gains into new social circles.
From the first episode of the new season, you can tell there will be a difference in the way the show addresses public spaces and how the oppressed navigate within them. Sam is being trolled by an unidentified Alt-Right Twitter user who agitates the racial tension on campus. Through this action, the series brilliantly portrays what is taking place in the political era of Donald Trump without ever directly saying his name.
With social media being such a large part of the reporting on civil rights and the spreading of fake news, it is used as an anchor for the dialogue of the show. Much of the conversations and comedic quips feel like the daily debates that happen on Black Twitter. Openly gay comedian Kid Fury, who gained notoriety by tweeting, makes a cameo this season. This allows the viewer to get a look at the varying aspects of Black life and opinion. It also makes the show that much more relatable. As each character is given their own episode (chapter), you see how and why they have different reactions to racism. They not only have to mediate the differences in their Blackness with White students who may be twice removed from their struggles but also with their Black friends who inhabit a different sector of Black life. As AP House is integrated, the viewer can see that dynamic and power struggle of Black issues and Black/White issues play out up close.
With the integration of the residence hall, the series also looks back at the segregated history of Winchester within each episode. The entire trajectory of Black bodies on campus as slaves to Black legacy students is an assessment of Black upward mobility in America. It still begs the question, “How free are we?” The series offers a look into how communication in a digital world has caused unrest between different groups of people despite open discussion being the suggested resolution to oppression.
Volume Two is about how the community interacts with personal identity. What it does best is pose the hard questions about race relations, political correctness, cultural ownership, free speech and who gets to be the face of what cause. The second season of Dear White People shows that as we fight for a more diverse and racially inclusive world, there is no roadmap to utopia.
Dear White People is now streaming on Netflix.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.