Thursday, October 16, 2014

Movie Review: Dear White People; also letters to the Black man and White Man

‘Dear White People,’ movie review 

Race tension and cultural expectations make a funny and explosive mix in film starring Tessa Thompson, Dennis Haysbert, Teyonah Parris and Tyler James Williams

Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 3:04 PM

Tyler James Williams (center) and more students in ‘Dear White People’
Tyler James Williams (center) and more students in ‘Dear White People’
  • Tyler James Williams (center) and more students in ‘Dear White People’
  • Dennis Haysbert in ‘Dear White People’
  • From left, Nia Jervier, Teyonah Parris and Brandon P. Bell in ‘Dear White People’
“Dear White People,” writer-director Justin Simien’s debut feature, may be angry without raising its voice. But the movie is also an example of how humor is the best way to make your argument.
At a cash-strapped Ivy League university, a group of minority students struggle with being “black faces in a white place.” They include: Sam (Tessa Thompson), the campus radical; Troy (Brandon P. Bell), the strait-laced son of the school dean; Coco (Teyonah Parris), a looker with an eye toward reality TV; and Lionel (Tyler James Williams), the shy gay observer who doesn’t quite fit in anywhere.
At the heart of the multicharacter story is the difficulty young people face coming of age in an allegedly postracial cultural era. Sam, who is mixed race, leads the college’s traditionally black residence in a militant stand against housing assignments. She’s also secretly dating a white classmate. Meanwhile, broadcast opportunities could open up for Coco if she amps up the stereotypes that her producers expect.
All of the characters are full, recognizable people working out who they really are while weighing who they’re supposed to be. Much as in life — but rarely in movies — everyone is at least partially sympathetic. And everyone has a bit of a point.
Simien’s highly stylized dialogue is rich, sharp and funny. His loose script gives the actors lots of chances to let ’er rip. A quick (and surprisingly cogent) explanation on the white-panic metaphor inside the ’80s hit “Gremlins” is one of several funny but thoughtful moments.
Despite an obviously small budget, it all snaps together with idiosyncratic style. The gravitas-exuding dean of students (Dennis Haysbert) likens his school to a jazz composition. The same is true of the film, which riffs beautifully as it rephrases key themes.
Comparisons to Spike Lee’s movies are unavoidable, particularly with a setting that recalls Lee’s “School Daze” and a conclusion that echoes “Do the Right Thing.” But “Dear White People” is a film of the moment, and an essential one at that.
Addendum: On the serious side
Letters to the Black Man and White Man
by Ajamu Baraka and Marvin X

“A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life.” – Ida B. Wells

Letter to North American Africans 
Ajamu Baraka

“The value put on black life by the occupation force in Ferguson and in our communities across the country is no different than the value put on the lives of the “natives” in Afghanistan and Iraq by the U.S. occupation forces.”
The Black radical tradition has always understood the inextricable link between racism and militarism: racism as a manifestation of white supremacist ideology, and militarism as the mechanism to enforce that ideology.
That fundamental link grounds our analysis of the Obama administration’s policies in Iraq and Syria. But the link between race (white supremacy) and the deployment of violence to enforce the interests of white supremacy also explains the repressive mission and role of the police in the colonized barrios and segregated African American communities within the U.S.
Achelle Mbembe explains in “Necropolitics” that “…in modern philosophical thought and European political practice …, the colony represents the site where sovereignty consists fundamentally in the exercise of a power outside the law … where ‘peace’ is more likely to take on the face of a ‘war without end.’” In the non-white world of the internal and global colonies, the rules are different. In those zones where the consent of the oppressed is not expected, colonial/capitalist domination is reinforced with force and violence.
In those colonized spaces it is clear that the people are not the ones to be “protected and served,” and even gestures such as throwing one’s hands up to surrender only means that the police have a better shot. Even the time-honored idea of national sovereignty is different in the non-European world than what is taught in political science and international relations classes, according to Mbembe. As we have witnessed in Iraq, Libya and Syria, sovereignty “relies, to a large degree, in the power and capacity to dictate who may live and who must die.”
That is why the Obama administration has not bothered to give its actions in Syria any legal justification. As Samantha Powers, Obama’s lunatic representative to the United Nations claimed, the U.S. has all of the authority it needs to bomb in Syria.
“In those colonized spaces it is clear that the people are not the ones to be ‘protected and served,’ and even gestures such as throwing one’s hands up to surrender only means that the police have a better shot.”
The African Americans who are supporting the latest war plans in Iraq and Syria while simultaneously calling for something called justice in Ferguson have forgotten, or never completely understood, that the war being waged by the U.S. to maintain global Western hegemony also includes them as a target. If Congress can give unanimous consent to the murder of more than 2,000 people in Gaza, the majority of them women and children, why would anyone think that those same people would really care about a few hundred African Americans who are being murdered annually by police forces charged with containing a population that has been rendered economically superfluous?
The value put on black life by the occupation force in Ferguson and in our communities across the country is no different than the value put on the lives of the “natives” in Afghanistan and Iraq by the U.S. occupation forces. The cavalier way in which white policymakers decide issues of war in the non-white nations of the global South and place tens of thousands of innocents at risk mirrors the value they put on non-white life in the U.S., especially when those non-white bodies are involved in activities that they define as threatening – like resisting, or at this point simply existing.
We must always remind ourselves that in the colonies of the world as well as the racialized, segregated communities in the capitalist metropolis, the non-white is seen as the living negation of everything deemed important to the European mind – the underclass, the violent, the welfare queens, gangbangers, the terrorists – the quintessence of evil. And in reminding ourselves of this reality we can remain clear about what forces and interests we should oppose and with whom to be in solidarity.
What this means is that we cannot afford the comforting myths of U.S. benevolence that attempt to conceal the naked deployment of U.S. state power in the service of Western capitalist/colonialist interests. And we must view with suspicion, if not treat with disdain, our comrades, white and black, who support U.S. interventions, even if they frame that support in leftist justifications. For oppressed nations and peoples’ of the world, the U.S. white supremacist colonial/capitalist patriarchy is and remains the principle contradiction. There must not be any nationalist sentimentality or equivocation on that position.
“The cavalier way in which white policymakers decide issues of war in the non-white nations of the global South and place tens of thousands of innocents at risk mirrors the value they put on non-white life in the U.S.”
The current phase of naked aggression in Syria is not a reflection of U.S. strength but rather its weakness. Nonetheless, we cannot underestimate the threat that the continued reliance on militarism and repression poses for African Americans and the peoples of the world. In the U.S., the national security apparatus has been moving systematically to strengthen its ability to target, contain, disrupt and repress when necessary all domestic oppositional movements. The threat of domestic terrorism provided the convenient cover for intensifying those efforts in the post-9/11 period, the result being graphically demonstrated by the militarized police in Boston and their police-state tactics in the aftermath of the Boston bombing, and in Ferguson, Missouri in response to a few hundred demonstrators protesting another killing of an unarmed black person.
The white supremacist, colonial/capitalist, patriarchal ruling classes of the U.S. and Europe are clear, even if we are not, that war and repression will be used with brutal efficiency to maintain their hegemony. Their brief turn toward utilizing “soft power” to shore up “legitimacy” in response to popular opposition to the Bush administration with the “selection” of Barack Obama (the smiling brown face of imperialist domination), was only a short-term tactical innovation of that strategy.
Scholars, pundits and commentators from across the political spectrum in the U.S. have already started to speculate on the legacy of Obama’s presidency. And even though his record of “accomplishments” is thin, very few will identify the most significant but insidious legacy of his presidency – concealing the reality of racialized violence in the service of Western global white supremacy.
Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He is a contributor to “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence” (Counterpunch Books, 2014). He can be reached at

Letter to the White Man 
Marvin X

Dear Mr. White Man:

I write to you in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. I pray for you at this hour. I pray that you will remove yourself from all Muslim lands at the earliest possible date. You have known for centuries the day would arrive when your beheading would be in order for all your sins against the righteous people of the planet earth. Yes, you have known many of the righteous would go down as well, especially those associated with you in any form or fashion. 

Surely you know from the story of Job or Ayub, that Allah will use the devil to do his work, i.e., he will fight fire with fire. We know you are the fire man of the planet; no one has more fire power than you, more guns, bombs, bullets, nuclear weapons, poison gas, germ warfare, chemical warfare. Yes, you are the king. Yet, the time arrives for a changing of the guard. That hour has arrived that the prophets told us about; the hour of the final battle between God and the devil. You have revealed yourself as the devil simply because you love doing evil, i.e., robbing, cheating, raping, dominating the planet with your filthy ways.

Talk of beheading? Wasn't it your brother King Leopold who practiced the art of beheading and chopping arms and hands during his rape of the Congo? You chopped hands of Africans in the American slave system when you learned they could read and write, since you wanted them kept in triple darkness, deaf dumb and blind for eternity, if you had your way. You lynched them, men and women, you deemed too uppity and recalcitrant; often you burned them at the stake for just looking at you and your woman.

And so what goes around comes around. There are few good guys in this tragic drama full of classic hubris and other human flaws made so famous in the plays of Shakespeare, greed, pride, niggardliness, hatred, and other deadly sins. More than anything, it is lust for power that is the downfall of many men, women, nations, empires.

If the Muslims have been fighting for centuries, better that you remove yourself from the battle, although we know your domination is entwined with the reactionary regimes in the area that are the primary cause of present events. Your sycophants will prove insincere as you are, as hypocritical as you are, especially since they emulate your behavior. They mastered your iniquities and now a force of pure evil has arisen to adjudicate matters. They ask one question: what side are you on--the wrong answer is cause for heads to fall. This is the type of justice you have inspired after centuries of injustice to the poor, the ignorant and diseased, the disenfranchised and economically deprived.

You have revealed yourself as an insincere, dishonest broker of peace and justice. We can see your attitude and behavior with respect to nationhood rights for Palestinians: a clear example of your insincerity and duplicity. You persist to clamor for peace in occupied Palestine, yet we know without justice there shall never be peace while the Zionists keep their boots and guns on the necks of Palestinians. Your Zionist allies have the best army in the world, the best guns, planes, bombs, yet they claim fear of security. The fear is hearing the cry for justice, for there is no true fear of security, especially with the USA and Europe as the ultimate maintainer of the Zionist entity. Demanding Hamas demilitarize is asking the men to deliver their balls to the altar of Zionist aggression. We see what happened in America when the 200,000 Africans gave up their guns after the Civil War. We have languished ever since in the caldron of Americana. 

The real tragedy is the common people caught in this final dance between God and the devil. It would be nice if you were on the moral high ground as Christian Crusaders, although you seem to expect another Hundred Years War in the Holy Lands. Didn't the Kurd Saladin end your Crusades in 1187 when he drove you from Jerusalem? It took a century more for the last remaining Crusaders to depart Syria for Europe.

Now here you are again, sick with it, that same Crusading spirit resurrected for another doom in the land of Islam. Whether the righteous Muslims must suffer in the present quagmire is not the question, whether they are innocent is not to be considered, for the devils must meet on the battlefield for that last round, unless of course, lessons are learned, but we doubt this is possible because this educational objective involves decolonization, including the deconstruction of white supremacy ideology. Some call it white lunacy and so it is. 

Often lunacy is a virus that spreads to the sane and they become infected until the insanity is full blown madness on their part. And of course, such madness can be a severe pathological phenomena that is reported as pure evil. Yet this evil is ready to battle what they perceive as a greater evil, the decadent regimes, the people who have strayed from the straight path. You say who gave them authority in such moral matters, especially while they themselves are guilty of plunder, rape, robbery, the poison of sectarianism and dogmatism of the most virulent variety. Unfortunately, they took authority and in many cases you are backing them--you love playing both sides of the fence, donning the persona of duplicity so pervasive in Middle Eastern political chicanery.

Sadly, there are  few right in this matter and perhaps it will be better if one combatant should extricate himself from the battlefield. But, alas, it appears, Mr. White Man, you have every intention to continue involving yourself in a matter of great complexity, much of tribal origin, theological concern, beyond the pure economics of the matter, which is no doubt your primary interest. There are mythological concerns, the Caliphate, rise of the Persians who desire to rule from the Tigris and Euphrates to the Mediterranean.

For sure, there is no future for the State of Israel in the area. Its days are numbered along with those of the reactionary, autocratic political and religious orders, with whom Israel is in bed with as we write. Yes, there are many Odd Fellows in this bed of iniquity.

Go home, Whitey, please, for the peace of the world. Let the Arabs kill each other until they are not only ready for peace but ready for justice, especially among themselves--for sure they have regressed to Ya'um Jahiliyah or the days of ignorance that preceded the birth of Islam. You cannot help them because you have yet given justice to the North American Africans who are descendants of those who suffered the American Slave System.

Marvin X is a free thinker. See his Beyond Religion, toward Spirituality; also, How to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy, Black Bird Press, Oakland. He can be reached at 

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