Dear White People was a phenomenal movie on race relations at a predominantly white institution. It was deeply relevant to us given Richmond’s widespread problem of social and educational segregation, so the discomfort it invokes is really important in terms of our own reflection on our experience moving forwards. What I found most interesting about the movie was the ability of the plot to explore so many different identity struggles among the characters. Every character is wildly different, yet still trying to navigate the same oppressive framework. This is where the issue of intersectionality becomes cinematically inevitable; each student has a part of their identity that holds them to a societal standard that limits their movements in the campus life structure.
Lionel, for example, faces an extremely oppressed identity as a gay Black man- it is clear that when the housing is structured so categorically, he is left without a single place to fit in. While almost no character fits in perfectly with their surroundings, Lionel deals with a level of harassment and excommunication that is hard to watch. He confronted the truth that his marginalization was hard to avoid in the setting, but it was still extremely lonely for him. He was not just gay nor Black, there are a million things that made up his identity and yet his choices of living situations left him stuck between multiple bad options.
I believe the debate over housing in the film was partly a commentary (there are a ton of discussions to be had on just one plot point) on the implications of intersectionality and identity. The houses were so categorized that almost no one fit in perfectly, and while a sense of community was clearly found, there was never a house that didn’t cause a certain level of marginalization. Garmin may have had the most glaringly violent exclusionary identity, but even Armstrong-Parker struggled with perfect inclusivity. All this is to say that the framework of the university was not built for inclusivity, even worse, the last scene proved it was maintaining oppression-for-profit as the status-quo. I would recommend Dear White People to anyone looking for discussion on race relations at a PWI, because there are so many nuances and views in the film to unpack and discuss.