‘Dear White People’ or ‘Dear Bougie Black People’?

‘Dear White People’ or ‘Dear Bougie Black People’?

The Boston Globe

Farah Stockman

THIS WEEKEND, I saw the new satirical film “Dear White People.” I was curious what it would tell me about how young people view race today.

Each generation plays out the drama of race in the movies. Baby boomers flocked to“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” which raised the question: Could a well-educated black man ever be good enough for a white family’s daughter? The jury was still out in 1967, the year my mom, who is black, saw that movie several times. Two years later, she married my dad, who is white.

Then came my generation. Born in the ’70s, we grew up glued to depictions of black slavery and impoverishment, with the television miniseries “Roots” and the sitcom “Good Times.” We came of age with Spike Lee’sJungle Fever,” released in 1991, which asked the question: Will the gulf between black and white ever be bridged? Lee’s answer seemed to be: Don’t hold your breath. In 1992, I left my predominantly white high school for a predominantly white Ivy League college.

Now we have the millennial generation, the most ethnically diverse, socially liberal cohort America has ever seen; kids who never wondered whether America could elect a black president. About 90 percent report being “fine” with a family member marrying outside the race. Yet, for much of this generation, the civil rights movement is ancient history, and systemic black poverty and incarceration take place on a separate planet. Millennials feel deeply ambivalent about acknowledging race, even for the purpose of righting wrongs: According to one poll, 70 percent feel it’s “never fair to give preferential treatment to one race over another, regardless of historical inequalities.” Nearly half of white young people today believe that discrimination against whites has become “as big a problem as discrimination against racial minority groups.” By comparison, only 27 percent of people of color share that belief…

W. E. B. Du Bois famously defined a black man as anybody “who must ride ‘Jim Crow’ in Georgia,’ ” writes Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs in her new book, “A Chosen Exile.” That “raises the question, What would a black man be without Jim Crow in Georgia?”…

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