I want to start this post by stating that I am a fan of “Dear White People” because it shows the flaws of both sides of a sensitive issue . The show highlights social injustices that occur in institutions for higher learning while, at the same time, forcing the main and tertiary African American characters to acknowledge their own racial biases.
As a vegan woman of color, who stays woke, I can see myself in many of the residents of Armstrong/Parker (the all- black house on Winchester University’s campus). Like Sam, I feel that it is my duty to fight against the injustices that occur in this county and refuse to remain silent. She, like myself, has been judged by the African American community for falling in love with a Caucasian man because they are our “oppressors” and “colonize our bodies”. Naturally I strongly disagree with this viewpoint because it demonizes a person for the actions of their ancestors and tells them that nothing they do with separate them from white supremacists.
Lionel sheds light on the underrepresented oPoC in the American subculture that focuses on anime, video games, and science fiction. He, like myself, has experienced racism when cosplaying. I will never forget the day when someone walked up to me and told me that I should not have cosplayed as Harley Quinn because I’m black. Every fiber in my being wanted to explode on this person, but all it would have done was reaffirm the stereotype that black women are loud and aggressive.
I see myself so much in Coco, the highly intellectual student who was always the token black girl in a white majority. She has constantly been told that no matter how much she assimilates to Western beauty standards she will always just be “pretty for a black girl”. She was “plucked from the inner-city” and given a white male mentor who taught her how to tone down her blackness and is seen by others as her savior. I have personally experienced a similar issue. While I have never attended school in an inner city I was always the only African American student in my AP classes. In high school I came to know someone who personally sees me as a Hallmark movie special. This person sees himself/ herself as my white savior who gave me the tools to survive as a token by assimilating so as to not seem so threatening. While I identify with Coco more than any character, I’m disappointed that she never broke the cycle and just decided to be herself.
Lastly, I want to highlight Kelsey. The only ideology I share with Kelsey is that she is against the consumption of animal products. I have to be honest with you guys, I have beef with her *vegan beef of course*. You would think that I would be happy that the show acknowledged that there are vegans in the African American community, but simply adding us in for the sake of inclusion is not enough. I would have been satisfied if it were not for the fact that Kelsey’s character does not accurately represent African American vegans.
My biggest issue with Kelsey: she’s not woke. She is one of, if not the biggest, Uncle Toms in the entire series thus far. She strolls around with her head in the clouds, completely oblivious to all of the injustices that happen around her. She walks around with fur , of all things, and a valley girl accent thinking that her assimilation makes her immune to racism. Every time the members of the African American societies congregate to discuss ways to fight oppression on campus, she counters their ideas by telling them to ignore the issues. She speaks to them as though they are overreacting because she has not personally experienced racism. After the blackface party that happened on campus she states that she did not even know that racism even existed anymore! She does not accept it completely until she personally experiences it in the last episode of season one.
I understand that it is important to include PoC who are not woke, but I have a problem when one of those people are the only African American vegan in the show. We are already highly underrepresented due to the fact that veganism is seen as a “white thing”. The discrimination that I face has almost doubled since I went vegan. My family struggles to wrap their mind around the concept of not eating what they see as traditional soul food. They, like this show, equate veganism with assimilation. You do not have to be white to acknowledge animal suffering. In a show that highlights injustice I am disappointed to see that they dropped the ball on this issue. Portraying an African American vegan as someone who is disconnected with the African American community is a slap in the face. It reaffirms negative confrontations of veganism and further ostracizes us. Less than one percent of vegans are African American. It’s hard enough trying to live in a world that mocks you for being compassionate. Why should we face exclusion from a group of people who already face oppression? The day we all ban together will be the day that we can truly change the world.