The first season of Dear White People ended with a massive cliffhanger for lead characters Samantha White and Troy Fairbanks.
Sam’s protest went completely haywire and she was dumped by Gabe after sleeping with Reggie. Meanwhile, Troy had an epiphany about being his father’s puppet and realized the truths in Lionel’s expose, which led to him raging against a window.
He was apprehended and nearly shot by a cop until his father Dean Fairbanks rushed out to order them not to shoot his son. As he is carted off by the cops, Sam stands beside his shocked father who once believed his son’s privilege would protect him from police brutality.
It was an interesting conclusion for both characters and would largely define their character arcs in Dear White People‘s season 2.
Sam and Troy are opposites, which certainly played a factor into their brief fling during their freshman year. Sam is the staunch activist who was raised by parents that encouraged her to follow her own path.
She has earned a prominent leadership place in the Black Student Union, no small feat as a biracial woman who some see as not “Black enough,” and she is in the upper echelon of AP’s Black social circle. She’s beautiful, smart, sharp, and fiercely outspoken as she calls out White people on overt racism and microaggresive behavior.
Meanwhile, Troy benefits from the socioeconomic status of his father, who heaps his expectations on the Troy’s shoulders. He is attractive, intelligent, and the first Black student body president as well as the leader of the more conservative CORE group, which often clashes with the Black Student Union.
Sam and Troy often bumped heads for their different views on how to handle racist behavior, part of which stemmed from Troy breaking Sam’s heart, but they finally found common ground at the protest.
The aftermath of Sam’s protest and Troy’s actions took two entirely different turns. Troy’s rebellion freed him from the box he had been placed in and he was welcomed into the Armstrong Parker fold by people who respected his actions.
He even bragged about using his ordeal to bring countless women into his bed who sympathized with the “trouble” he had gotten into. Meanwhile, Sam took the brunt of the fallout after the protest and this season saw here dealing with intense racist harassment both via Internet and in person.
She had bananas with the B word hung from her door, death threats, and racial slurs about her biracial heritage.
The events took an emotional and psychological toll on her and she was seen expressing her pain to Gabe and Joelle. But, in front of everyone else, she continued to put on the brave face. In her words, she said she couldn’t talk about her pain on Dear White People because it would mean that her enemies had won.
Yes, she was a much more prominent figure in the situation, but it speaks to how women always take the brunt of the hatred in these situations. It is directly tied to misogynistic beliefs that leadership and truth is supposed to come from a cisgender man.
Women have to endure extra scrutiny and knowledge tests to prove they are “worthy” to address a topic. Sam is seen as emotional and angry while Troy is seen as someone who is passionate about change.
The intersection of Blackness and womanhood opened her up to so much more pain in addition to her not having the social connections and status afforded to Troy.
This is not to say Troy didn’t have struggles. He was saying all the right things as the student body president and trying to be everything to everybody on campus, but he was also dealing with the inner frustrations of being a Black man.
He admittedly loves the perks of his status on campus, but the pressures of maintaining this persona started to take a toll. This season, he was making decisions for himself and discovering what made him happy.
It was extremely difficult to stand up to his overbearing father and admit that he was on a journey of self-discovery that would no longer include him being a pawn. But, Troy was given the space to be able to process his feelings and experience growing pains.
He went out and did (terrible) comedy, experimented with drugs, peed in a fountain, stripped naked, and did all sorts of bizarre things with little to no repercussion. Meanwhile, Sam had an entire portion of the student body looking to her for answers, strength, and their next move.
She had to “stay strong” for them, meanwhile she was going through emotional turmoil. It’s a pervasive double standard where women are conditioned to exhibit maturity and poise, even when they are dying in the inside. This goes doubly for Black women, who are often denied their humanity in favor of being everyone’s backbone.
The wonderful thing about the characters on Dear White People is they all have their messiness – especially Sam. Her primary issue lies with her identity as a woman with a Black mom and White father.
She has always felt the need to prove her Blackness and overcompensate for half of her heritage to the point of being too absorbed in her quest for racial justice. It has been to her own detriment, as seen when her father died. Sam was forced to look at the person she is and who she will choose to be from this point forward.
She was left at the end of the season wondering if she should continue to do Dear White People while Troy managed to lay his burdens down with everyone.
He apologized to Sam and Coco for his womanizing ways and using both of them achieve his goals. He confronts his father and mends their relationship and decides to join Pastiche so he can kick off his comedy career.
It’s a nice wrap up for him, but it is disheartening that Sam took the brunt of the protest fallout and ended this season the way she began – full of doubt, confusion, and a tinge of sadness.
Perhaps the Order of X will change the tides for her, but for now she is hanging in the balance. Hopefully, there will be a season 3 to see where Sam and Troy’s stories go from here.