After many disgruntled tweets, Facebook posts and tears from those that just could not understand why Netflix would be debuting a series based on the acclaimed movie, entitled Dear White People, the original series was finally released this month. I immediately knew that this was a series that I would binge watch. I watched each episode back to back only taking a few moments in between for snacks and bathroom breaks. Dear White People is a clever, comedic commentary that opens a dialogue across sectors and one that I hope brings awareness to many issues that Black people experience that many White people claim they are oblivious to. The series follows a group of young African American students at the predominantly White Ivy League college, Winchester University. Many of the issues Dear White People addresses, I could immediately relate to, primarily being in college and trying to discover who you are amidst being in White spaces trying not to get swept away in the raging current of racism and micro-aggressions. Overall I was very pleased with the series and look forward to the next season however, there was one issue that I did have with Dear White People…
Where is the Black Love, Sex and Intimacy?
Yes, we saw Troy- the All-American, I-am-the-next-Obama-in-the-making -have sex with Colandrea aka Coco but their sex was more of the animalistic sex that is often stereotyped between Black men and women. Don’t get me wrong, there is always a time and a place for some body rockin’, headboard bangin’, I bet the neighbors know my name, whose is it sex but I wondered why couldn’t we see sex displayed between a Black man and woman that was intimate, erotic and sensual? Even when we did see Troy and Colandrea have foreplay and he was performing cunnilingus (which he seemed to love because not only did he perform it on her but also Nia Long’s character that he was cheating with) her mind seemed a million miles away, instead of enjoying every single tongue grazing, body shaking, legs quivering moment.
In contrast, one of the first love scenes we see in the series is of Sam, the African American female lead, and Gabe, her secret White male lover, engaged in a passionate display of love making of course all shown to us in slow motion with perfect lighting. The scene is set flanked by the Autobiography of Malcolm X on the bedside table, violin music and Sam moaning passionately as she rides herself and her lover to a breathtaking orgasm. Gabe politely asks, “Did you, uh?” And Sam replies, “Uh huh, twice,” as she giggles and wraps herself up in his sheets. She proceeds to pick up her cell phone afterwards and plays Candy Crush as she is wrapped in Gabe’s arms and they playfully give each other love bites. The scene continues as they kiss and Sam giggles before being summoned via text to come attend the Black Student Caucus. The scene was romantic, passionate and shows a couple that was not just having sex but that have an intimate connection.
I kept watching, hoping that with the progressiveness of Dear White People, I would have a chance to see a scene between two Black people that was just as passionate and erotic as Sam and Gabe. I thought that moment would come when Sam slips into Reggie’s dorm room. Unfortunately, we do not get to see them have sex. We get a glimpse through the mind of Gabe of what their sexual encounter looked like with strawberries, ramen noodles and ice. Why couldn’t we actually see the encounter? As a viewer, and a Black woman, I would have loved to see what a sexual encounter between Sam and Reggie looked like. I would have loved to see a Black man and woman, making love on my TV screen. Not animalistic, YouPorn sex. But sex that is erotic and sensual. Sex where there is deep kissing, licking on the soft part of her neck, whispering sweet nothings in her ear, telling him how much you want him, him entering her slowing, absorbing the way that she feels, both of them moaning softly than louder, him on top of her and her on top of him and him back on top of her as he moves in and out slowly than faster than slowly again until he takes her to the edge of ecstasy pushing inside of her deeper until they both release and lay tangled in sheets covered in a mist of light sweat, shining with the contentment and afterglow of love making.
However, that did not happen.
Before Sam entered Reggie’s dorm room they have a conversation about him passing off the duties to lead the Black students on to her. Reggie says that he was not trying to pass the duties on to Sam but he always saw her as a leader to which Sam asks, “Don’t you think there is a woman under here?” And as they say good night, Reggie enters his dorm but leaves the door open, silently inviting Sam in. And she enters. As a viewer, we know they are going to have sex but as a viewer their sex was shrouded by too many questions. Is this guilt sex? Obligation sex? A way to assuage her guilt for sleeping with a White man? A way to soothe Reggie’s manhood after he has an encounter with the police? Does she feel they should really be together? Does fighting against the machine bring them together? There are too many questions that surround their encounter to make it comfortable or romantic for the viewer.
Can Black men and women ever make love without revolution between them? Is it possible for Black men and women to make love and not be overwhelmed with injustice? Can Black men and women truly be intimate if the woman feels as if she is bearing the weight of the world on her shoulders? Can Black men see Black women as sexual creatures? Can a Black man see a Black woman as a woman that just needs to be woman? Can Black men and women take off their armor and be vulnerable, naked, exposed and that is okay? Can Black men and women be passionate without thoughts of oppression? Is there ever a time to just be a woman and a man? Is there ever a time not be the face or voice of a movement and for a moment just be a man and a woman that wants to make love? Because sometimes making love has nothing to do with revolution but everything to do with desire, need and longing.
And perhaps that is why Sam found herself in the arms of Gabe. With Gabe, Sam is able to find refuge because he allows her to just be Sam the woman and not Sam the activist. Gabe brings her ice cream, supports her going to rallies, acknowledges their relationship on social media, listens to old school music with her, supports her radio show, checks his privilege at the door and invites her to dinner with his friends where she can discuss her love for old movies over cheap wine. As Sam’s friend Joelle said to Gabe, “She smiles with you. Not a self-satisfied smile but with you it’s a whole body thing, Head to toe. With you she smiles from her socks.” With Gabe, Sam is allowed to just be Sam. She can just be who she is without the clouds of oppression, police brutality and racism engulfing her.
Perhaps that is what Black men and women need and as an activist what I need to see. I need to know that a show as forward thinking as Dear White People does not succumb to the myth that Black men and women are incompatible, argumentative and destructive. I need to know that this is not just another show that highlights Black men and women in dysfunctional relationships. I need to know that Black women can rest in the arms of Black men and feel safe. I need to know that not every Black man is cheating and looking for the next best thing. I need this world to know before there was ever 50 Shades of Grey there were 100 Shades of Black. I need to see that Black men and women can be passionate and erotic. I need to know that Black men still look at Black women like Barack looks at Michelle. I need to see that because I am that. I am woman that loves, love and that loves intimacy and passion and all things kinky and erotic and discreet. And sometimes we need a break from the machine. A moment to pause, to exhale, to breathe deeply. To connect and moan and tingle in the arms of a lover. A time to just pause and to truly make love with no thoughts of revolution between us.