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 bothered me. I know I just contradicted myself, but allow me to explain.
Dear White People, a movie turned Netflix series, was created by Justin Simiean. 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 experience. 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 and long, luxurious hair extensions. The 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 into an Ivy League college. When the viewer gains this information about her character, we learn that she presents herself in a manner for, not only personal but for political reasons as well. She is aware of the importance of using her voice, as black woman, which she demonstrates when she speaks after the incident with the campus officers that impacted 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 society associates darker skin with being unsuitable and unattractive. I understood her constant need for 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. Personally, I do not retain inner peace when I choose to commit these sorts of actions, so it was natural for me to view her actions from my level of understanding. 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.