The creator of Dear White People has responded to the controversy his forthcoming series has received.
A 30 second announcement trailer for the movie turned Netflix series was released on February 8. The title, as well as some of the scenes featured in the short clip (specifically a group of black students crashing a party), angered many white viewers who took to the video’s comment section as well as their respective Twitters to voice their opposition to the series and Netflix for backing the show (resulting in the #BoycottNetflix).
After initially responding to some of the controversy via his personal Twitter account, Justin Simien has now written a lengthy response called “Why Did I Name It Dear White People?” The article addresses a lot: the backlash Simien received when the film first came out (not much different from the backlash he is currently receiving); having doubts about naming the project what he did; the double standard of being black and creating something that mocks whiteness; and much more.
But there’s one particular part of Simien’s response that speaks to the poignant history of being black in America — the creation of the word “Nigger.”
“The concept of the ‘Nigger,’ a kind of sub-human category for Africans living in America, succeeded in downgrading an entire group of people so that they might continue to be exploited for financial gain,” Simien writes. “Scholars of the black American experience such as James Baldwin asserted that a kind of unexpressed guilt White people naturally felt over this often violent and ugly subjugation of their neighbors evolved into projections, fantasies and open hostility towards blacks. This hostility was then passed on pathologically through the generations.”
He then hones in on this hatred through a James Baldwin quote: “One of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
You can read the entire response here.