Dear White People: Season 1/ Episode 4 “Chapter IV” – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Colorism is one of the main focuses of Coco’s episode and damn if the display of it may not bring you to tears.

Toning Down and Compensating: Coco [Antoinette Robertson], Sam

A long time ago, freshman year to be exact, Sam and Coco were not only roommates but friends. Sam saw a Black friend who accepted her and Coco simply saw a girl who didn’t make fun of her name, Colandrea or her look. However, as time went on, a rift grew between them.

One of the prime reasons was the fact as Coco tried to tone down her Black features because of the negative connotations she experienced with them, Sam was trying to compensate for being bi-racial by being woke, getting others to be, and being more and more afro-centric. For when they both entered Winchester, they both got rejected by the groups they wanted to appeal to most. Sam wanted the Black Student Union, which she now heads, to accept her. Not to see some light skinned, bi-racial girl but a Black woman who knows where her people came from and cares.

As for Coco? She wanted to be a sorority girl, to be one of the pretty girls, the one whose dark skin and kinky hair wasn’t seen as the ugly one, as the doll which looked like her as a kid was deemed. For that would mean acceptance. A sorority would be a sisterhood, a family, one which, Coco gets a weave for just so she can fit in more with.

Yet, it wasn’t enough. They wanted light skinned Sam and saw a leader in her. So, once again, Coco is passed over for a light skinned chick. Thus sowing the seeds for Coco’s issues with Sam, even though Sam tried to warn Coco and even made a peace offering.

Commentary

Okay, while I like Sam and get that bi-racial/ light skinned people go through stuff too, I didn’t like how heavily she was featured in Coco’s episode. If only because, like Lionel, she was one of the characters whose story was downplayed in the movie. So with Sam’s need to compensate to show she was down actively competing with Coco exhibiting the problems within the Black community dealing with colorism, it was so frustrating.

Especially since we got the rare treat of no real theatrics being involved in Coco’s struggle. It is shown as an almost silent pain. One she does yell at Sam about, but mostly Robertson lets you feel what you need to feel rather than breakdown every thought and emotion Coco is going through. To the point that, even if you aren’t dark skinned, how could you not get a little teary eyed?

Being Chosen: Coco

Alpha Delta Rho didn’t choose her, Troy choose Sam and Coco was chosen when he wants a booty call, yet these white guys choose her. They didn’t with her old wig but with this new weave, she can stand beside Muffy [Caitlin Carver], a white girl, and not feel like the chick being chosen to get to the hot one. Also, she gets to show those Alpha Delta Rho sorority girls who the real beautiful one is. All the while being chocolate and not some kind of oak tree skin tone.

Yet, while a white boy’s acceptance and compliments are nice, there is Troy. The kind of guy Coco perhaps always wanted but got passed over by. Here he is, on his knees, eating her out. But still, the questions remains, is she his Jackie O or Marilyn Monroe?

Commentary

You know, it is one thing to be rejected because of your attitude, your opinions, and things of that nature. Stuff you can work on. However, when it is your skin tone, hair, and stuff you have no control over? Being passed over or rejected is worse than a smack in the face. It feels like indifference.

Though, who knows, maybe it is worse when the people of your own race, who you share a culture with, reject you. Yet, in another person’s race, you find someone who finds you attractive. But, here comes the complex part when it comes to Coco, which brings up memories of Toni Morrison’s “Tar Baby”

“I wonder if the person he wants to marry is me or a black girl? And if it isn’t me he wants, but any black girl who looks like me, talks and acts like me, what will happen when he finds out that I hate ear hoops, that I don’t have to straighten my hair, that Mingus puts me to sleep, that sometimes I want to get out of my skin and be only the person inside-not American-not black-just me?”
— Tar Baby, p . 48

What happens when she takes out the weave? What happens if he doesn’t like Colandrea but simply the experience of being with a Black girl? The pass he thinks that gives him or just the check mark on his bucket list? In case you were perhaps wondering why there were side eyes given to Sam in the first episode, it wasn’t just because Gabe was white and she is so afro-centric. More so, it was the question of whether or not she was trying to do as we saw Troy did in the last episode. Did she want to play all sides by being the woke and accepted Black girl yet still be accepted by white folk, specifically white men? As can be seen whenever a Black celeb says something which isn’t in the Black community’s best interest, as quickly as someone can be put on a pedestal they can be taken down. For there is an unfortunate need to be cautious since, often, once there is this fabled opportunity to “transcend race” some take it and dump on those who haven’t such an imaginary option.

Bringing this back to Coco, perhaps that is another reason why she went back to Troy. She got the validation she needed from a guy, a guy she found attractive, so it gave her the confidence she needed to deal with Troy’s mess. For, quoting myself,

“Empty sex is still some form of affection. […] for the moments up to and during actually feel something from another person, and even lust can feel good if you’re the one they are lusting over; But, then the emptiness comes when you realize that is wasn’t you they wanted, but your body.”

Which is perhaps where Coco is at. Wondering if it is enough to be lusted over vs. genuinely wanted for who she is and what she cares about.

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