Even though I thought the film Dear White People was just okay, the timely message intrigued me enough to binge-watch its Netflix series spinoff. The series picks up where its prequel left off, the aftermath of the blackface party; as expected, initially, the series was just okay. By episode four, I was ready to move on from the series, not because it was poorly written or hard to watch, I was ready to move on because I couldn’t see my “identity versus self” struggle in any of the characters. For me, it wasn’t real. Well, that was until episode five—Reggie’s focus episode. Through the first four episodes, Reggie’s struggle is easily overlooked due to his Samantha White addiction and his “Blacker than thou” maxims. So naturally, viewers see Reggie as “a light skin version of Dap from School Daze,” but fail to see the vulnerability of his Black-self within a predominately white institution. (Enter Barry Jenkins). The Moonlight filmmaker forces Reggie and his viewers to consider how the perceived threat of one’s Black-self can cause conflict in a white space. Barry Jenkins forces Reggie and his viewers to acknowledge the upshot of white violence and the white gaze beyond a “Woke or Not Woke app.” Boom, game changer.

In episode five, some time has passed since the Pastiche blackface party and students aren’t as angry for justice as they initially were. However, Reggie’s “radical innocence” or maybe even his God level of “wokeness” will not allow him to move beyond the “f**k Black people” undertones of the Pastiche party. He’s still angry, he still wants justice, he still wants the revolution. “Why aren’t they being more productive?” To which, his friend Joelle responds, “rebellion isn't just about movements. "Sometimes being carefree and Black is an act of revolution." Boom, perspective.

After a long day of being “carefree and black,” irony leads Reggie and his friends to a predominately white house party. The still angry, justice craving, and revolution embracing, Reggie finds himself teamed with a white classmate, competing in a trivia drinking game. Unsurprisingly, Reggie dominates. And he’s not shy about it—both boasting and declaring— “This game is culturally biased against me and I'm still whooping y'all's ass." The comment didn’t matter though, the white crowd loved Reggie and for once his Black self wasn’t a perceived threat. Boom, Bro status.

The scene then takes a dramatic turn as Reggie’s white friend, Addison, decides to say the word “n****r.” Well, he repeats the word said in a rap song but he still says it. In a very non-threating manner, Reggie turns to his bro and asks him not to say it again. “Why? It’s not like I’m a racist.” “Never, said you were,” Reggie and his friends respond. Again, Addison protests Reggie’s objection. Reggie then responds by asking, “how would you like it if I went around saying honkey, redneck or cracker?” Addison replies, I wouldn’t care!!!” to which Reggie responds “and that’s the problem.” The entire party becomes a reflection of society’s divisive racial dynamic and Reggie is now the focal point of the white gaze. He’s no longer friendly, he’s no longer yeah Reggie’s Black, but he’s different. Reggie. Is. Again. Reggie. And Reggie now finds himself defending his Black self and his Black body as he stares down the barrel of a gun brandished by campus security.  Boom, reality.

What are you doing here? Are you a student? Let me see your I.D. White gaze on a hundred thousand trillion. Reggie’s self-pride leaves his body and is quickly replaced with fear as he asks for permission to reach into his pocket to retrieve his wallet. Campus security does not flinch, and Reggie is one wrong move from death. Reggie extends his hand and the officer reaches out to grab the I.D. and insidiously says, “If you'd just shown it to me when I asked, we could have avoided all this."

This episode not only highlights the pressure for nonconforming Black people to participate in identity politics but the conflict it causes when you succumb to the pressure. In short, the upshot of white violence and the white gaze is real. It impacts how we, Black people, see feel and think in public spaces. It interrupts our becoming process as we find our Black selves at the mercy of contrived feelings of entitlement, fear, and threat. Boom, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Kalief Browder, Troy Polly, Tony Polly, and the rest of Black America.