Where to begin with Season Two of Dear White People? It is leaps and bounds better than Season One, in my humble opinion. As we know, Season One of Dear White People was beholden to the original film, written and directed by Justin Simien, from which the show gets its name. Because the first season has covered the events that take place in the film, this season is allowed to plot its own course. Season Two takes on Twitter trolls, media personalities, secret campus societies, and of course the interpersonal relationships between characters. Taking place only two short weeks from the end of the last season, we pick up with AP (Armstrong Parker, the historical Black dorm) being interrogated after a fire engulfed Davis House. If you recall, this is the exact thing that the black student caucus didn't want to happen because, as Dr. King said, there is no point in being “integrated into a burning house.” Except for a great plot device because now our favorite students are forced to interact with their less-woke white counterparts.
In the first episode alone we see that because of the “white refugee crisis” as Reggie (played by Marque Richardson) so aptly put it, AP’s TV night becomes an uncomfortable microcosm of emotions. As the show’s version of Love and Hip Hop, called Trap House Tricks, plays, white students laugh at the over-dramatic cast. Not with. At. Leaving the Black students conflicted about the representation of Blackness onscreen. Samantha White, played by Logan Browning, is still dealing with internal conflict about being biracial this season. This is shown twice: the first time is when grits are added to the breakfast menu and she proceeds to add sugar to them and has a flashback to her father, who is white, adding sugar to her grits before her first day of school. Then, a Twitter troll named AltIvy attacks Sam’s race, saying that it is a shame her father “ruined her by fucking a monkey,” naturally causing Sam to cry in frustration.
One of the great changes in this season is that the narrator is showing us the history of Winchester University, the fictional Ivy League School. In the second episode, we get to look back on the history of campus police. The narrator explains that the original purpose of campus police, and the reason they have guns, is because they were supposed to keep slaves from rebelling. However, as time went on, and slaves became black students, the need for guns became null. But the rules about campus security carrying guns was never changed.
The second episode is told from the perspective of Reggie, who is on his way to therapy. After having a gun pulled on him by a rent-a-cop at a house party last season, the school has given Reggie mandatory therapy seasons. However, the white therapist assigned to him clearly has not done any good. Dean Fairbanks pulls Reggie into this office and tells him, “You got 99 problems, your head doesn't need to be one" and instructs him to find someone to talk about his near-death experience. The Dean goes on to express that the horrible things that happen to black people should not be normalized and that we should not feel shame for seeking therapy. But when you are in college and don’t want to admit that you are suffering from PTSD and anxiety, you take a different path. Like getting drunk and taking advantage of the “reparations pussy” from white girls filled with white guilt, or expressing yourself through art.
Episode three is all about Lionel, played by DeRon Horton, who is fascinated with finding out the real story of Winchester and the secret societies that reside there. As Lionel tries to find the hidden truth about what is happening on campus, he is pulled into a night of pride parties with his old editor, Silvio. Each party showcases a different faction of gay life, ranging from rich white gay writers who have no filter to overly conscious Black power gays who are friends of Sam’s, played by Todrick Hall and Kind Fury from my favorite podcast The Read. Fury argues that it is all about calling out problematic people, and things, and less about not about trying to be liked by the white students. The whole episode revolves around Lionel trying to find his tribe and figure out what to do now that his magazine has been shut down.
CoCo, played by Antoinette Robertson, becomes our lead in episode four and as per usual, she is plotting world domination and her road to the White House. She is trying to get into a prestigious sorority called Pegasus and become the president of CORE (Coalition of Racial Equality), the only Black-run student group that gets any school recognition and funding. She has also been the white whisperer, translating Black peoples’ reactions and slang to the white students who have recently made AP their home. But while all of this is going on, she is harboring one huge secret: She’s pregnant. Her roommate Kelsey, played by Nia Jervier, brings up the fact that she has been eating nothing but red licorice despite previously saying that she hates it and finds a pregnancy test in the trash. So now she has to decide whether or not to have an abortion so that she keeps pursuing her ambitions. Despite the fact that Kelsey seemed vapid in the first season this episode displays that she is kind, caring, and compassionate person (and a lesbian) who really want to help CoCo do what is best for her. “Having a choice doesn't make that choice any easier to make,” Coco says. and after imagining her life with a child, CoCo choices to get an abortion. Dear White People is not holding back this season.
Episode five showcase my favorite character, Joelle. She was the valedictorian of high school and she continues to kill it academically. But because Sam is, well, Sam, Joelle is often left to play the background. Even after being asked to co-host the podcast Dear White People, Joelle gets completely ignored and talked over. Because she is constantly tiptoeing around Sam’s larger than life personality and lack of emotional intelligence (see last season, when Sam had sex with Reggie even though Joelle is clearly in love with him), she has to sneak around to give Gabe, Sam’s ex-boyfriend, feedback on his documentary project. Even with Gabe's praise of how Joelle makes everything better, the guy she is interested in doesn't seem to notice her. “This world is not kind to the Kellys,” says Joelle. which is the truth! You can be beautiful, talented and nice and still be made to feel second best because colorism is real. Cue the Trevor King guy from her anatomy class who asks her out on one of the coolest dates ever. It’s a real shame that he is a hotep that Joelle ends up cussing out and Reggie punches in the face.
Throughout the season, we see Lionel’s A Beautiful Mind-style map of secret societies, AltIvy’s online trolling that becomes real-life with a bushel of bananas with bitch written on them, and the idea of self-discovery not only for Lionel but for Troy. After breaking a window and stepping down from the presidency Troy spends his episode trying to figure out who he is outside of his father's expectations and ends up naked in a pool talking to a dog. Meanwhile, Gabe is recording his documentary that questions if white people are innately racist. Overall, this season touches on so many important themes and topics and has great cameos, including a couple of actors from the original movie, so all you really can do is listen to the narrator and “watch closely.”
images from Netflix
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Byshera Williams is an English Major at Drexel University. She is an associate editor at The Smart Set. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org