Since 2017, an American comedy-drama television series Dear White People have been released on Netflix. The story of a group of black students at a fictional Ivy League College is an anthology of problems facing young African Americans. It would seem that a prestigious college should represent a tolerant post-racial society. However, tolerance and open-mindedness disappear as soon as students begin to fear for their privileges (Simien, 2017). The show, especially some episodes, makes it clear that racism in the United States remains a structural problem far beyond disadvantaged black areas.
One of the most notable episodes is the scene where white students have a party where they dress up like blacks. This episode is important since it communicates the contemporary social issue of racism in the United States through blackface, a dark make-up that imitates the appearance of African Americans. Its history is connected with the minstrel shows that appeared in the United States in the middle of the 19th century (Hornback, 2018). White actors portrayed comic scenes from the life of black slaves, invariably lazy and stupid. Thus, by painting their skin black, the white students wanted to insult their dark-skinned peers. This has caused a resonance at different levels, student organizations demonstrated their active position and all this was seasoned with interpersonal relationships.
This episode is one of the most problematic ones and can be read through the perspective of cultural studies in terms of how it portrays the issue of race. It depicts not only dorm segregation but also a large-scale problem of racial discrimination that is still acute in the United States (Simien, 2017). In response to such behavior, black students say that when their white peers mock them, they enforce an existing system. They say that cops everywhere staring down a barrel of a gun at a black man do not see a human being (Simien, 2017). Thus, this is not a simple mocking of college mates but a big social problem hiding behind it.
In this paper, I will argue that the episode of dorm segregation through blackface was created to draw attention to the problem of racism that is still relevant in the United States. Black race cannot be a costume or a make-up, so it is an insult to paint under black people (Hornback, 2018). Even if a person uses black makeup without any subtext, this is blackface and it is not acceptable. This phenomenon has huge cultural baggage, separately from which it cannot be considered. The negative connotation will not be removed from blackface until racism is finally defeated.
I believe that this episode was designed to draw attention to the problem of racism. White people cannot dress like another race and present it as a mask or a caricature. This is not an innocent kind of behavior but rather an act of violence disguised as an act of ignorance. I would also like to note that the scriptwriters of the series find loopholes that allow them to penetrate the dark corners of society, where they manage to reconsider their views on political correctness, tolerance, and many other major issues of our time. At the predominantly white Ivy League College, a group of black students faces various forms of discrimination. The authors have managed to work out every detail of the moral stratification of society on the example of student circles.
Hornback, R. (2018). Racism and early blackface comic traditions: From the old world to the new. Springer.
Simien, J. (Director). (2017). Dear White People [TV series]. Netflix.