Dear White People

by Grant Batchelder

This last week we had an opportunity to take 30 students to go see a special screening of “Dear White People.” If you haven’t heard about the movie, it is a film about a group of students at a predominantly white prestigious Ivy League school struggling to understand themselves, their identity, and especially what it means to be black at a PWI. I have been looking forward to this movie for a while. It looked like a great tool for discussions about race, ethnicity, and identity. I believe that my intuition about the film was correct. The movie has great potential to encourage students to talk and think. This is one movie that I think all Student Affairs professionals should watch and have in their arsenal.

There was an added bonus to the night, when it was announced that the director/producer Justin Simien was in attendance as well. He joined the student, faculty, and staff discussion panel following the movie to answer questions and encourage discussion among the attendants. Two of our students and on faculty from Austin College were also a part of the panel. The discussion following the movie was so good that the movie attendants had to force us to stop so they could start the next movie. It was especially great to hear from Simien just what he was intending with each character and segment of the movie. He explained how he wrote it to examine all aspects of what it meant to be black, positive and negative.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film. There were some cringe worthy moments for Student Affairs professionals, especially from the university president and dean of students, but they were important for the plot. Having Simien there was just an added bonus that increased the knowledge and learning of those present. Again, I recommend that faculty, staff, and students all go see this movie. The topics of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and identity are so often ignored or silenced, but they are the topics that need to be explored most. Any film or novel that explores these topics and creates discussion has my vote.

If anyone has any other films or movies that they believe bring about authentic conversation around these topics, please respond below!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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