I was watching “ Chapter V” of Netflix’s new show, “ Dear White People,” which is based on a fictional Ivy League university and the black students who attend it. The main character, Sam, hosts a controversial radio show with the same name, “Dear White People,” in which she discusses racial inequality on campus. The episodes, up until that point, had all been somewhat light-hearted, but all of that changed with “Chapter V.”
The episode opens with a quote by James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed if it is not faced.” It hints at what is to come, especially with the episode being solely about Reggie, a genius in his Data Structure class who is also vocal about the racial imbalance at the university.
The events that lead to Reggie being treated like a criminal begins at a party, where he is having a grand time with his friends. A Future song comes on, and Addison, one of Reggie’s white classmates sings along, using the N-word. Reggie asks him to stop saying the N-word, and Addison becomes offended that he was being labeled a racist. He refuses to let the request go without a confrontation. Everyone gets involved, tensions run high, a shuffle behind Reggie sends him barreling into Addison, and a scuffle ensues.
Then, the campus police arrive.
They immediately assume that Reggie is the reason for the violence, and zeroes in on him, with one cop asking him for his ID after Reggie tells him that he's a student there. Reggie responds with, “Fuck these pigs, man.” It was all the cop needed to hear. He quickly pulls out a loaded gun, finger already on the trigger and yells, “Did I stutter? Show me some ID!”
Black and white students alike are all horrified. I couldn’t help but break down. My emotions were still raw from the shooting of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in Balch Springs, Texas by an officer.
The horrified look on Reggie’s face as he slowly pulls out his wallet, while narrating his every move because he doesn't want the cop to misread his simple gestures and shoot him, is enough to strike a blow in anyone’s heart.
Reggie leaves the party alive but remains in a state of shock. In his dorm room, he sits with his back pressed against the wall. Then, the tears came.
It’s a haunting episode that shows how easily the cop could’ve ended Reggie’s life. How easy it is to pull the trigger and end any black life.