Samantha White is a heritage media arts major at the fictional Winchester University, a prestigious and predominantly white school. With her sharp tongued and witty radio show Dear White People and her self-published book, Ebony and Ivy, Sam causes a stir among the administration and student body alike, criticizing white people and the racist transgressions at Winchester.
When Sam wins the election for head of house of Armstrong/Parker, the all-black house on campus, tensions rise. In winning the election, she defeats her ex-boyfriend Troy Fairbanks, the son of the school’s dean. Troy harbors dreams of being a comedic writer rather than a lawyer, but his father prefers that he not give white people a chance to profile him, and will accept nothing less than his best. Coco has an issue with Sam because the reality TV producer she is trying to win over would rather do a show on the witty light-skinned black girl than her. Lionel Higgins, a black gay student, gets a chance at finally finding his place at Winchester by being recruited by the school’s most prestigious student paper to write a piece on Sam and the black experience at Winchester. When Kurt, a white student and son of the school’s president, and his club come up with a blackface theme for their annual party in response to Sam’s outspoken show, black students appear at the party, and a confrontation ensues, leading to a brawl.