DEAR WHITE PEOPLE
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
A race war has broken out at Winchester University, as the news has reported. People are calling for the resignation of Dean Fairbanks (Dennis Haysbert) as a result of the chaos. The students sit tight in their seats as everything unfolds.
CAMPUS ARRIVALS (Five Weeks Earlier)
Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) is a junior media arts major who runs a radio show called "Dear White People", where she addresses the white students and makes snide remarks about their association with black people. She starts by saying that the minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has been raised to two, and that the weed man doesn't count.
Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams) is a gay black student living in a residence hall with mostly white students. He is dismayed when one of the students makes the voice message of the house one that says Lionel will suck big dicks for little pay. He meets with Dean Fairbanks to transfer houses. Fairbanks suggests Armstrong/Parker House, which is made up of minorities. Lionel isn't keen on this since he has tried to distance himself from black kids since high school. Fairbanks makes a jazz reference that Lionel doesn't understand to sway his opinion.
Colandrea "Coco" Conners (Teyonah Parris) has her own YouTube channel where she makes webcam videos on whatever she wants to say. She has an interview with a TV show producer named Helmut West (Malcolm Barrett), who is scouting for a subject for his next project. Helmut makes some commments about Coco being from a "hood" part of her hometown, which she doesn't like.
Coco hangs out with her friend, Sophia Fletcher (Brittany Curran), daughter of the school's president. Sophia asks Coco if her hair is weaved, which Coco also doesn't like to hear. Sophia then introduces Coco to her boyfriend, Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P Bell), the dean's son. Coco leaves after the introduction. Troy and Sophia see flyers on the walls from Sam, who is trying to run against Troy for head of the Armstrong/Parker house. Just then, over the speakers, Sam does another "Dear White People" by stating that dating a person to piss off your parents is a form of racism. Sophia awkwardly steps back from Troy.
The students of the house gather for a debate to elect the new head of house. From here, we learn that Troy and Sam used to date a year ago. Sam doesn't even think she will beat him. Troy gives his speech, stating there is nothing wrong with the housing situation. Sam goes up and argues that the black students are unfairly lumped together in Armstrong/Parker, and so she is looking to "bring black back." After she gets off the stage, she rejoins the other members of the Black Student Union, including her boyfriend Reggie (Marque Richardson). Everybody votes through an app on their phones, and, to even her own surprise, Sam is the winner.
Another gay student, George (Brandon Alter), approaches Lionel and comments that he's read Lionel's articles in the school's Observer. George offers him a staff position for the Bugle if Lionel can get a good scoop for the paper.
Some white students from another house, led by Kurt Fletcher (Kyle Gallner) - Sophia's brother and the president's son - are having lunch at Armstrong/Parker. Lionel is there having lunch by himself. Kurt hears Sam and the BSU making comments about their current housing situation and their feelings of oppression from white folks. He stands up and makes a remark on how the hardest thing to be is an educated white man. Sam shuts him down in front of everyone, sending him and his buddies out of there. She makes Lionel leave as well.
In her room, Coco goes online and notices the YouTube channel for "Dear White People" has more followers and views than she does. She decides to make her own video where she trashes Sam's show and references Sophia referring to her hair as "weaved".
SHOW AND TELL
Sam's film class watches a movie she did called "Rebirth of a Nation", where white people are shown panicking after Obama was elected president. One student, Gabe (Justin Dobies), makes a criticism about the film. After class, Sam's professor talks to her about her paper on how "Gremlins" represents white fear of black people. Sam argues it's because the Gremlins are loud, talk in slang, are addicted to fried chicken, and freak out when you get their hair wet.
Sam spots Gabe and repeats his criticism to her. He follows her and they walk all the way to his dorm where they have sex. Sam later gets a call from Reggie, but she ignores it.
Fairbanks and President Fletcher (Peter Syvertsen) listen to one of Sam's "Dear White People" bits where she says that saying "African-American" instead of just "black" implies that people want to say the n-word. Fletcher thinks it's an abuse of free speech, and while Fairbanks doesn't like the show either, he has been butting heads with Fletcher since they were students at the same school.
Lionel sits by himself in his residence hall while Kurt and his buddies are playing poker. Lionel briefly glances over at them, to Kurt's annoyance. Kurt then gets up and walks over to Lionel and unzips his pants. Lionel tells him he's pathetic. When they leave, Lionel checks out a book that Sam wrote called "Ebony and Ivy", for black students to feel better around white folks. He spots a trivia question which puts him in a scenario where he's at a restaurant and the waitress mistakes him for someone that tipped her poorly, so she takes 45 minutes to bring him his food. He reviews the options and is baffled when he sees the answers.
Troy is smoking weed in the bathroom while leaving the shower running. Sophia waits outside the bathroom before they head out on their date with her brother's pals. She tells Troy to fuck her with his "big black cock", which puts him off. Sophia gets very defensive when Troy doesn't reply and she leaves in a huff.
Everybody goes to Kurt's hall for a night of poker. Troy sits with Kurt's friends with the hope of joining their group, Pastiche. Coco shows up wearing a low-cut dress, attracting some attention of her own. Kurt hangs out with the two of them and his friends, suggesting they may have spots in the group.
Sam and Reggie argue over a rally they are planning against Fairbanks and the housing situation. Sam offends Reggie with an offhand comment, leading him to storm out. They talk it over outside and they kiss, which Gabe sees.
Troy and Coco end up sleeping together and sharing a joint. Coco gets a message from Kurt saying she's got a spot in the group. Troy has nothing.
CHANGE OF PLANS
Troy breaks up with Sophia, as he doesn't feel for her the same way she does for him. He also admits to her that he's been smoking weed in the bathroom and writing jokes.
The BSU gets ready for their rally, with signs made up and everything. Sam goes to join them until she gets a text from her mom to call her. She does and learns there is something going on with her father. Sam leaves in tears. Gabe follows her to her room to try and console her but she just wants to be left alone. Gabe argues that she ought to stop putting up this "tragic mulatto bullshit" front, while Reggie and two others knock on Sam's door. Gabe opens the door and leaves, to the surprise of the others.
Lionel finds George and his associate Annie (Katie Gaulke) in their office. He tells George that he is planning on doing the article on the fiasco with Sam and Kurt. Later, while he eats at Armstrong/Parker, Reggie and three other BSU members sit with Lionel and assure him that they are not homophobic and want him to join their cause.
Lionel ends up moving into the same apartment as Troy. Troy is none too pleased, but he and Lionel just seem to ignore each other.
RECALLS AND RETRACTIONS
Troy meets with his father to learn that the voting app was rigged and that Sam may have hacked the system to give herself the advantage. It is also suggested that Reggie was the culprit, since he is known to be skilled at that sort of thing.
Coco talks to Helmut again, who is interested in showcasing the university for the documentary he is making, called "Black Face, White Place".
Lionel finds George and Annie in the office again. George tells him that he wants Lionel to cover a donor's event, which will be followed by a Halloween party that George invites Lionel to. Before George leaves, Lionel asks him if he thinks he (Lionel) is a good writer. George just smiles and kisses him.
The white students receive an invitation from Kurt to come to the party, which has a black theme to it. He uses some racist jargon and ends it with "n-gga n-gga n-gga n-gga n-gga".
Lionel dresses up for the party. He spots Troy outside smoking weed. After a brief chat, Troy warms up to Lionel and tells him he would've gotten his back if they went to the same school.
The party is full of white people in blackface or wearing Obama and Rosa Parks masks, drinking "purple drank", and playing hip-hop. Lionel finds this to be very offensive. George pulls him aside and starts kissing him, but Lionel is too uncomfortable to proceed. He leaves and finds the BSU and rallies them along with the other minorities to crash the party. Troy also finds his father among the other people donating to the school to show him the pictures of the party.
All the black students start making trouble at Kurt's party. Lionel starts smashing bottles and the others break things and pull the masks off people. Sam and Coco are also there, with Coco sporting a blonde wig, and Sam recording everything on her film camera. Coco tells Sam that the white people spend a lot of money just to be like black people, and for a night, that's what they got. Lionel smashes the speakers and turntables, leading everyone to run outside. Kurt pins Lionel to the ground, giving Lionel an opportunity to humiliate Kurt by kissing him in front of everyone. Kurt punches him twice until Reggie pulls him off. Then the police show up.
In the aftermath of the riots, Sam, Kurt, Lionel, and Troy are all individually met by Fairbanks to discuss who sent the racist invitation. Fairbanks suggests it was Sam because the password used by the person sending the invitations was the same as Sam's student ID number. She firmly denies this was the case.
Sam shows a new video to her class, with footage from the party and the thoughts on the black students on this situation. She ends it with a clip of herself about to do another "Dear White People", but instead, she says, "You know what? Never mind." The class applauds the film.
Sam finds Gabe reading the Observer on a footbridge. Here, Sam explains that her father is white, and that she was confused and somewhat ashamed of him when she was a child, but she regrets it and acknowledges that she's pushed away the people she loves. She and Gabe walk away holding hands, which Reggie and other BSU members happen to notice.
Helmut speaks to Fairbanks and Fletcher, hoping to document the chaos of the school for his project, because, according to him, everybody loves crazy racist white people. Fairbanks starts to tell him that they would not consider doing this, until Fletcher silences him and asks Helmut how much money this would be worth. Helmut just smiles.
The first part of the credits feature articles of white students in universities across the country getting in trouble for throwing blackface parties.