When it first premiered back in 2017, Dear White People made waves. The show didn't even get a chance to be on the air before people started criticizing it left and right. It was only a matter of days until the audience fully internalized the show for what it was - a funny and witty criticism of very serious and very real racial issues that society faces.
Dear White People is filled with teachable moments that everyone can and should learn from. In its lightness there's heaviness and within its wittiness, there is plenty of food for thought. Depicting the lives of a group of black students in a predominantly white Ivy League college, the show makes a stellar job of addressing racial politics. Often leaving audiences in a state that's somewhere between whimsical and pondering, Dear White People feeds us with pieces of dialogue that are as powerful as they are truthful. With that being said, let's take a look at the 10 most powerful quotes from the show.
10 "Dear white people, here’s a little tip: When you ask someone who looks ethnically different ‘what are you?’ the answer is usually a person about to slap the s*** out of you."
It might be the 21st century, but that doesn't mean racial tensions are completely removed from the world. Quite the contrary, actually. Decades and centuries of ingrained racism can still be felt at times, even in younger generations. It's very easy to proclaim yourself as not being racist, and yet comments such as "what are you" still manage to come out.
This quote by Sam brilliantly addresses the issue. People are things, they are human beings. Asking someone 'what' they are is degrading, and will generate a less than civil response - and rightfully so. Just because someone looks different from you, it doesn't make them less - ever. So don't come off as ignorant and racist.
9 "Equal? You could only vote if you owned land and didn’t have a vagina."
Another fantastic thing about Dear White People is that it doesn't just stop its delightful criticism with racial politics. It also takes a handful of jabs at misogyny, which is very much still a problem in today's society. Yes, we have begun to take the right steps towards equality, but that doesn't mean we're there yet.
One very important thing when it comes to problems like racism and misogyny is that we don't ever forget history and what it taught us. As we all know, those who forget history are bound to repeat it. Sam very wisely reminds us that not that long ago, women weren't even allowed to even participate in democracy.
8 "Some of you, with your liberal purity deciding who’s black enough! Who cares if you’re woke or not if you’re dead?"
The events that followed Reggie being faced with his own humanity and, consequently, mortality were intense, to say the least. The episode that followed a campus officer pulling a gun on him was one of the most powerful to date and gave us some of the most powerful quotes as well.
This dealt with the very real issue of black people immediately being perceived as threats by the people who are sworn to protect. The institution that is law enforcement has a sad and outrageous history of pulling out guns and shooting innocent people just because of their race. At the Armstrong-Parker meeting, Coco is in tears when she announces her Chicago roots, where she was faced with this reality. She's had friends and family who died at the hands of racism and injustice. And in the middle of all the discussion, "who cares if you're woke or not if you're dead?".
7 "A bullet held me captive, gun in my face, your hate misplaced, light-skin, white skin but for me, not the right skin."
One of the ways Reggie dealt with the aftermath of what happened to him was turning to art. Firstly, it's a beautiful move on the part of the showrunners to depict someone dealing with trauma in such a healthy way. Coping mechanisms can often lead victims to a downward spiral, but giving Reggie the power of channeling his emotions through poetry was nothing short of glorious.
He performed at open mic night, where he shared his powerful piece with the audience. While the whole thing is worthy of being shared, we'll stick to what is perhaps the most telling. Yes, the hate that drove the officer to pull a gun on Reggie was unjustified. It came from a place of racism, a place that judges people based on their skin color. But there is no wrong skin color, and there never will be.
6 "The minute black kids sit together in a cafeteria, white folks cry self-segregation. Nevermind that white people have always sat together and always will."
It's very easy to say yo understand someone else's problem. However, it's pretty obvious that you won't completely understand other people's struggles in life unless you walk a mile in their shoes. Unless you also go through something similar, unless you feel what it's like to be a certain way, or deal with certain issues, you will never fully comprehend.
This quote calls our attention to the fact that white people don't really get the issue of segregation, not until they are the ones who are faced with it. Only when they become the ones who aren't welcomed to the table do they begin to see why it matters, and how it feels. It forces white people to truly make some introspective work and realize that they also might have failed in fighting against something that deserves to be destroyed.
5 "When you mock us, you enforce an existing system. Cops everywhere staring down a barrel of a gun at a black man don't see a human being."
In one of the episodes of Dear White People, a group of students has the brilliant idea of hosting a party that encourages the attendees to wear blackface. The "brilliant" is obviously complete sarcasm because there are so many levels in which this is not okay, it would take a whole essay to dig into that. Sam decides to spread the invites in order to "woke some people."
When she comes clean on her show and admits she did it, she commands attention to the issue that is blackface, and what it leads to. White people don't get to dress up as another race and present it as a mask, a caricature, a criminal. This is problematic in the least, and downright offensive. It's not an innocent act - it's an act of violence disguised as an act of ignorance.
4 "Dear white people, our skin color is not a weapon. You don’t have to be afraid of it."
Again in the aftermath of what went down with Reggie, Sam takes to her show to express her feelings. In what is without a doubt one of the most powerful moments of Dear White People, she opens her show with this quote. Food for thought doesn't even begin to describe these words, but let's start with that.
Racism has become so ingrained in certain members of society, that people's skin color is enough to throw them off. Nevermind that they're probably kind, innocent human beings. Nevermind that they're just plain human beings, that have the same rights as everyone else, regardless of what they look like. Racist individuals feel threatened by skin color alone because they are ignorant, and this kind of ignorance has ended lives.
3 "If you were a cat owner and only all cats were dying in America, if someone said to you 'All Lives Matter', you'd be upset too."
How sad is it that, in order for you to make some people understand how much of a problem racism is in our society, you have to use analogies? Analogies that use things that shouldn't matter more than human lives? Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. Troy's speech came more from a place of wanting to appeal to certain groups in order to become president than anything else, but it still raises an important issue.
When people started answering to the Black Lives Matter with the All Lives Matter speech, the whole thing screamed complete ignorance. Yes, all lives matter. But not all lives are being lost because of racism, and trying to make it seem otherwise is just sad and unbelievably obtuse, to say the least.
2 "You get away with murder because you look more like them than I do. That's your light-skinned privilege."
White privilege is not the same as light-skinned privilege. However, it's a very important issue that exists within the black community, and that doesn't get enough attention. Because the notion that dark skin is inferior to white skin has been ingrained into us for centuries, this led to a hierarchy being implemented within the community and those who have lighter skin are at the top of the pyramid.
There are endless studies that back the advantages that lighter skinned black people have in comparison to those who have darker skin. This, of course, has its genesis in the horrible notion that's already been mentioned, and it's a problem that won't disappear until racism as a whole does too.
1 "All men are created equal (...) unless you're loud and black and possess an opinion, then all you get is a bullet."
Because Reggie's poem was so powerful, it's impossible to only mention one of his quotes in this list. He was, indeed, one of the characters who gave us more than enough to fully ponder on the issue of racism. His pain and anger were clear throughout his entire piece, and along with the one we've already mentioned, there's another one, who manages to cut even deeper.
All men aren't created equal. As much as we'd like to believe so, it's not true. And it's pretty easy to believe it when you aren't a part of a minority and aren't faced with the constant challenges that come with it. We should all be equal, and we won't be until we are no longer judged by the things that we cannot control, and that doesn't make us any less worthy of existing.