On Wednesday, Netflix released the first teaser trailer for Justin Simien’s series “Dear White People.” Unfortunately, the 30-second clip received backlash from Twitter users who accused the streaming service of being “anti-white” and created the hashtag #BoycottNetflix. Upon reading the negative comments online, Simien spoke out in a series of tweets aiming to shut down the internet trolls.
“We live in a world of cognitive dissonance. Post-facts is possible because we are terrified we’ll die if we are wrong, even when we know it,” began Simien. “I think what pisses people off is seeing a woman of color refer to white people en masse. Something she’d not dare be allowed in decades past.”
We live in a world of cognitive dissonance. Post-facts is possible because we are terrified we'll die if we are wrong, even when we know it
— Justin Simien (@JSim07) February 9, 2017
“Equality feels like oppression to the privileged and thus three benign words send them into a fight for their very existence, which happens to it actually not [being] in any real danger,” continued Simien. “This is how a minute long date announcement becomes a distorted call for white genocide in the minds of some people. Despite all signs to the contrary.”
“Dear White People” started as a 2014 film, written, directed, and co-produced by Simien, that focuses on the escalating racial tension at a prestigious Ivy League college from the perspective of several African American students. The film received critical acclaim and, upon its release, received no backlash. In 2016, Lionsgate announced that it would be producing a series based on the movie, which would be distributed through Netflix – still, the news didn’t receive an adverse reaction from people.
The filmmaker continued on Twitter, explaining how “Dear White People” was a movie released three years ago and how people are quick to criticize anything that makes them feel like they are being attacked, without knowing the full story.
“‘Dear White People’ was a widely reviewed film three years ago. A cursory Google search would confirm it has no racist intent. But that Google search is not embarked upon because they NEED it to be hate speech. They NEED to fight an enemy, lest they sit alone in their own pain. Feelings of being past over by an evolving society,” he expressed.
“I’m not the first artist to use a misnomer as a title and I reject any notion of ‘causing a divide’ simply by stating that one exists. Which is my role as artist. To state what is. But if facts and common sense can not wake us up from our delusions and distorted ways of seeing, what can?” he asked. “Stories. Stories teach us empathy. They reveal to us ourselves in the skins of others. Our entire concept of reality is stories. So tell your story. Come out of the closet. Write your thesis. Make your film. But do it honestly. Tell the inconvenient truth. It is the only thing that has ever saved us. So while it was fun engaging the trolls but it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The harder thing is to listen and present what is.”