Los Angeles, CA – For Justin Simien, his path to Hollywood has been one mired in the kind of racism you would expect a black man to experience. After the success of his acclaimed and highly publicized movie Dear White People, Simien has followed it up with a show of the same title on Netflix. While the show currently has a perfect rating on the notoriously critical Rotten Tomatoes, Simien discusses how that path hasn’t always been so kind to him.
“[I experienced backlash] from day one,” Simien recalls during his recent segment on #DXLive. ‘The thing is [that] I incorporated it all into the movie. Anything negative people said, any knee-jerk reaction people had literally verbatim, their words are in the movie. Because, to me, that’s all a part of it. The fact that as a black artist I have to endure the knee-jerk [reactions] from the majority? That’s kind of what I’m talking about here. ‘Stuff White People Like’ I don’t remember that getting backlash [and] I don’t remember seeing people protest Stephen Colbert’s ‘Hey White People’ but because it’s a black guy saying the words white and people together, I don’t know, that just freaks people out.”
The outrage followed Simien to Netflix after it was announced that Dear White People would become a show. “No one canceled their subscription — not with Fuller House on,” exclaimed Simien as he details the backlash. “It was a bunch of people trying to make a story and put themselves out there. It’s kind of a sport to attack black liberals.” Simien even managed to wrangle the attention of the KKK. “The thing that was like the craziest to me [was] David Duke, former Grand Wizard or whatever, did this video of how I was calling for a white genocide. It wasn’t even offensive; it was just like ‘What?’ I couldn’t figure out how he made that connection but you know, he’s right,” Simien recalls sarcastically. “It’s a call for the end of all white people.”
Having started the script while he was enrolled at Chapman University, Dear White People is a labor of love that has taken nearly 15 years to come to fruition. “I had been writing this movie since I was in college and it was called 2% and [Dear White People character] Samantha White is the shock jock, college radio host and she always had this show. Honestly, this is what did it; it was when like the thousandth person did their ‘Single Ladies’ video, right around that time. Me and my whites were trading ‘dear white people’ [jokes] back and forth over just how quickly things were appropriated and I said, ‘This should be the name of Sam’s show,’ so I start tweeting as her to see how people would take it and honestly it was organically just the right title to me.”
Watch above as Jake Rohn is subjected to “Ask A White Person” and you can catch both Dear White People the movie and new Netflix series right now on the premium streaming platform. And, as always, for more exclusives like this one tune in to #DXLive every Thursday at 3pm PST/6pm EST and keep it locked right here on HipHopDX.