What Colandrea ‘CoCo’ Conners Taught Me

Previously written on March 2, 2018 about Season 1.

Let’s be real, we all can understand when a person is on their grind to get to the top at any and all costs. However, doing so at the expense of others has always bothered me. I know I just contradicted myself, but allow me to explain.

ColandreaDear White People, a movie turned Netflix series, was created by Justin Simien. He mentioned that, “In mainstream culture, when you see a black person — black — that is the thing that you see but there is so much to us than just our color. We’re human beings. We have many facets to our personality, so I want to keep digging deeper into our experiences as human beings who happen to be black.”

The movie was met with critical acclaim and, of course, backlash as well. Personally, I enjoyed the series because of its complex characters and the writing that allowed you to understand the motives behind the actions of each character. The movie introduced you, primarily, to the setting of the characters and a brief background of their individual experience at the fictional campus, Winchester University. The Netflix series provided more context to the characters and allowed you to become more engulfed on an individual basis, versus a story basis.

I have an opinion about each character, but we are going to dissect Coco, as mentioned, to highlight when I met a woman that mirrors her motivations and actions. In all honesty, I identify with and enjoy Coco’s character the most due to my own life experiences. However, I have evolved beyond identifying myself by those life experiences, therefore my motivations have changed, but I digress. Coco is introduced to allow the viewer to perceive her superficially, in other words to judge her book by its cover. She appears to be the direct opposite of her ex-friend Samantha White. She indulges in her physical appearance by wearing a full face of makeup everyday and long, luxurious hair extensions. Majority of her campus friends are white and she is an active member in the CORE (Coalition of Racial Equality). Yet, she is much more complex than she appears to be to the viewer. Coco’s character writing does a beautiful job in exemplifying how we simplify black people in real life, film and etc. When Coco is allowed more space for character development, we learn that she has experienced traumatic events in her life while living on the Southside of Chicago. We learn that she is very “woke” and aware of what is happening around her. She is the first in her family to attend college and had the help of a wealthy white mentor to secure her attendance at Winchester. When the viewer gains this information about her character, we learn that she presents herself in this manner for, not only personal, but for political reasons as well. She is aware of the importance in using her voice, as black woman, which she demonstrates when she speaks after the incident with the campus officers that arrested Reggie Green, but we still have an issue with the motivations of her character.

We’re human beings. We have many facets to our personality, so I want to keep digging deeper into our experiences as human beings who happen to be black.

While working in Corporate America, I met a woman that mirrored Coco’s actions. I understood her superficiality because I am aware of how one aspect of colorism in our society pressures darker skinned women to be “on point” at all times. At one point, she even projects this onto Samantha when she makes a comment about her hair. Also, I understood her constant need of white acceptance and approval. Yet, it was my initial shock of her getting to the top by any means, which included putting her foot on the neck of others, that perplexed me. However, it was when I connected her past life experiences to her current motivations that things became crystal clear to me. She was motivated by self preservation, which was mentioned by Coco in the context of “managing [her] blackness”.

Coco is very much conflicted and her actions are questionable, but it is in those actions that we appreciate the beauty in other women that are just like her. Above all, it is Colandrea ‘Coco’ Conners that provides a much needed insight as to why we should eliminate the oversimplification of black people in storytelling and in our personal lives.

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