Whites only. Into chocolate. Chubby chasers. Rice queens. If you’re gay and not exactly the European standard of beauty, chances are you’ve seen one or more of these phrases on dating apps and floating around in the real world.
Netflix original series Dear White People isn’t afraid to start uncomfortable conversations, and this season, that includes racism in the gay community. The show takes place at Winchester University, a fictional Ivy League school, and explores the intersections of a handful of black students on campus. DeRon Horton plays Lionel, a nerdy journalist who hopes to one day get over his awkwardness enough to win a Pulitzer.
If the first season was about Lionel being gay in black spaces, season two is about being black in gay spaces.
In the season one finale, Lionel exposes the racist transgressions of his student-run newspaper, The Independent, much to the rage and titillation of his editor-in-chief Silvio, who kisses him in front of the whole student body. Episode 3 picks up not far from where we left off, with Lionel nervously getting ready for their first date.
While Lionel naively believes Silvio has feelings for him, Silvio isn’t quite on the same page. When he shows up to Lionel’s room, he’s plastered, passes out on his bed, and wakes up without his keys. Lionel, and his aggressively heterosexual roommate Troy, retrace Silvio’s steps to the many Pride parties he attended before his arrival.
This is how we’re introduced to Winchester’s gay circles.
First up are the literati gays, a group of pretentious liberal elites (mostly writers) who party with only the most expensive booze and openly call each other “faggots.” Silvio explains, “It’s our n-word.”
Lionel cringes as Troy leans over and asks, “These are your people, huh?”
“They’re gay. They’re writers. Maybe?”
As Silvio pokes around to look for his keys, Lionel wanders over to the bar and strikes up a conversation with a boy name DeAndre, who came to the party alone because “that’s the fun part.” Just as their conversation starts vibing, DeAndre stops him.
“So no shade,” he begins. “But I’m not like…into other black guys. Just an FYI.”
Clearly, DeAndre is the type to have #TeamSwirl in his Twitter bio and ask “Black okay?” on Grindr. Many black gay men have come to expect racism from white guys and, more times than not, other minorities, but it’s always more jarring to experience anti-blackness from another black guy. As one King of Reads points out, “If you don’t see people who look like you as attractive, what does that say about you?”
I would’ve called it a day then and there and headed home, but Lionel persists. Silvio’s friends invite him over to where they’re throwing shade and Real Housewives references. Before he can even get comfortable, one of the twinks implies that hooking up with Lionel would make “his Waspy-ass parents deeply ashamed,” has the audacity to wink at him, and saunters away.
His friend tries to excuse him, “That’s because his Bonr profile says whites only.”
“He did change it to All-American after Freddy from comparative lit called him out in his editorial on problematic gays.”
So begins the cliched “but don’t we all have a type?” debate and the two problematic gays quickly start listing their friends who like chocolates, chubby guys, and rice queens.
“Wait, are we still allowed to say rice queen?”
“We’re fags. We’re not allowed to exist in half the world so why do we have to play by its rules.”
But Lionel didn’t come to play with y’all, “Says white guys who just want to reduce Asians to a complex carb.”
While white queer people may be slightly more aware and empathetic of race issues than their straight counterparts, here’s a PSA: fetishization isn’t flattering. Or cute.
Silvio returns and they head to the next party, a disco underground scene of stylish, black queer people. Lionel tries to mingle, but can’t quite catch on to Kid Fury and Todrick Hall’s debates on whether sushi is appropriation, and doesn’t have an opinion on the cultural relevance of Taylor Swift. Silvio’s key search is a bust and they move on.
Last stop, the theater kids. After Silvio is whisked away yet again, Lionel meets Wesley, a fellow nerd who was ditched at the party by the love of his life – who’s making out with some rando in the corner.
“My first clue things weren’t going to work out was when he kept introducing me to friends that were really into Latino guys.”
Lionel laughs, “Why do people do that, like it’s some grand compliment that someone can tolerate me? We love coming up with reasons to reject our own.”
“It’s like the gay First Commandment,” Wesley adds. “Do unto others as has been done unto you.”
By initiating this conversation, Dear White People‘s second season is doing the first steps in dismantling white supremacy in the gay community. It’s easy to claim to just have “a preference,” but gay men need to start questioning where those come from and why they have them.
So, my gay boys, it isn’t “just a preference” when it’s rooted in America’s well-documented anti-blackness and always abides by the media’s European beauty ideals. More likely than not, you’re brainwashed – and missing out on entire races of people who are all beautiful and individually have something unique to offer.
At the very least, please stop referring to people of color as food.
Season two of Dear White People is on Netflix now.