Interview with Dear White People’s Marque Richardson

ear White People is a satirical take on what it's like to be a Black face in a White place, in the "post-racial" age of Obama. The film, which hit theaters nationwide in October 2014, follows four Black students and their experience at an Ivy League college. We spoke to actor Marque Richardson, who plays Reggie, about the film, stereotypes and his connection to Detroit.

What are some surprising stereotypes you learned while making this film?

"White people love mayonnaise. No, I'm kidding. I love mayonnaise and Miracle Whip, on the record. But I think that the most surprising thing for me, in terms of the stereotypes was that a lot of people aren't conscious of the stereotypes that we have in our community. You know, what we talk about indoors. We'll have different screenings, and people of other races will come up like 'oh I didn't know that Black people couldn't listen to Taylor Swift.' Just simple things like that. Which is cool for me to see. This film, what it does is spark a level consciousness just within yourself, and your identy. If you identify with a specific character, its like a mirror effect."

Did you ever face any of the stereotypes similar to the ones in the movie while you were growing up?

"Brandon Bell, who plays Troy in the film, we went to USC. We met there, in 2003, and we lived on an all black floor in a predominately white campus. We were the black face in a white place, so we lived the story to the T. I remember a couple times an entrepreneurship professor of mine was speaking in front of the class, telling a story about her rough upbringing or whatever, it was a middle-aged white woman. Afterwards, I went down and I was talking to her and I said, 'thank you for sharing your story because it really makes me think of blah blah blah in my own life,' and she looked at me and she said, 'Oh that's okay, Marque. That's really great. You made it out of the hood.' and I was like 'what? I'm not from the hood.' I mean, my dad's from Detroit. This was also the same professor who I joked around and said 'okay, I'll cook for you,' and she was like 'oh, we don't eat fried foods.' It was so funny to me how ignorant she was. I know everyone doesn't take it the same way, I mean those instances made me laugh."

Do you have trouble explaining Black culture to your non-Black friends?

"I don't explain shit to nobody because that's not my job. I'm very comfortable in my skin. I am black. I know I'm black, but I don't have that as a limit on my possibility or whatever. This is what it is, and you're going to get what you're going to get. I think people know not to come at me with that sort of stuff, because I don't have time for it."

Do you think it's realistic to say that one day we'll live in a post-racial society?

"I think there is potential. Is it 10 years, 50 years down the line? I don't think so. Is it 100 years down the line? I don't think so. But what I will say is everything that's happening now is sort of an evolution of humanity, if that makes sense. If we do want to create a 'post-racial society,' it does start with the youth. It does start with us, then it's spreading that message down as we continue to procreate and have babies."

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What's your thought on the idea that black people can't be racist?

"Lets look at the definition of what racist is: 'A person who believes in racism; the doctrine that a certain race is superior to any and all others,' 'A belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races, determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that ones own race is superior and has the right to rule others.' So, can black people be racist? I don't see an example where black people are ruling others. I haven't had a chance to experience where I'm ruling over another race."

You said your dad is from Detroit, and that you still have family here. How often are you able to visit?

"I haven't been here in so long; the last time I was here I was like 12. My parents, they raised me in southern California. With Detroit and everything that's going on in the Midwest, it's sad that a lot of people view Detroit like it's dying. Detroit is having a rough time right now. I feel like it will bounce back. However, I feel like there are individuals or communities that are taking advantage of the situation. Capitalists. Whether you agree or don't agree with it, it's the world we live in. What will Detroit look like 10-15 years down the line? I think it will look a lot different. I think it will be a lot brighter. By brighter, I'm not talking about snow. Detroit will be fine."

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