If you receive an invitation to an "unleash your inner Negro" party, DON'T GO! This is the moral of Justin Simien's quick-witted satire about race relations on America's college campuses. Set at fictitious Winchester University, the film follows four black college students on a campus rife with racial tension. You have the hoodrat with a weave, the gay intellectual with an Afro (that white people can't stop touching), the handsome Obama wannabe, and the millenial's tribute to Angela Davis. All four characters are trying to find themselves in the midst of a balkanized campus, where non-white students have limited options for belonging.
The characters are highly articulate as they navigate the rarefied environment of American higher education, and the zingers are nonstop, making us laugh to death the notion, declared by Winchester University's president, that "racism is over in America." It's clearly not, and white people clearly have much to learn, but the learning is lighthearted, not preachy. The genius of the film is that Simiens tempers the hard racial lessons with self-deprecating humor. Like when a group of students from the Black Student Union show up outside a movie theater to protest Hollywood's portrayal of black people, ripping apart the Madea-ization of black cinema, only to discover that the film about to be screened is a sci-fi thriller, probably about aliens. To be a black student on most college campuses in America today is to be somewhat of an alien, but Simiens reminds us alienation is not only dark and unjust. It is also deeply funny.