HBO’s Insecure and Social Bleaching

Honestly, I should have stopped watching Insecure years ago. However, my desire to be proven wrong too often supercedes the reality that awaits me after ever episode. This reality manifests itself in the disappointment that hits me at least twice before the credits roll. The scene with Lawrence having a threesome with two white women remains burned in my memory. My mind houses this image with a slew of other things that I, as a black woman, wish I could unsee, but can not. 

This season, Issa Rae places systemic indifference to missing blacks in her backdrop, and the cliche “we can’t have nothing” as the caption to a block party that ends in turmoil. Additionally, she writes Molly, the successful black woman, into a trope the white media feeds the black professional. Here, I reference the common projection that conventionally successful, meaning one who with a professional degree and material goods , must find love outside their race. This image correlates to what many media algorithms conjure up for the black woman. Here, I speak to a number of professional black women who report Youtube as habitually recommending videos on interracial relationships that prove antithetical to anything they have ever viewed on the site. Youtube’s forcefeeding corresponds to a plethora of commercials, and other media depictions that pair black women with African-adjacent men. Insecure’s depiction, therefore, does not reflect an isolated or innocuous image. Frankly, Molly’s #bae Andrew functions similarly to the white CIA agent in Black Panther; he exists solely to “diversify” black space. This initiative implies a false equivalency between races and posits “diversity” as universally necessary. 

Therefore, Andrew’s presence on the show makes the predominately black cast appear more approachable to the African-Adjacent audience, and functions as benign to some within the black collective because he is Asian, not white. Additionally, his presence on the show flies beneath many radars because most black viewers watch the show because of its black authorship and to see black characters endure platonic, familial, and romantic relationships that feel familiar. 

With this being said, it is imperative for the black viewer to note that Insecure’s platform, HBO, is not for black viewers. In fact, the series functions as a looking glass into black culture and black relationships that takes full form in appearing to create a means for the black audience to look at themselves. The show, and the social media engagement it engenders, enables the white audience a two-dimensional gaze onto black thought, creating an entry point to control, or affect, what black people do. 

In juxtaposition to shows like Family Reunion, BlackAF, Blackish, etc, Insecure offers a nuanced means to socially bleach the black aesthetic. On one hand, Yvonne Orji, is a Nigerian actress who plays a Black American. This depiction, as seen in films Harriet and Queen and Slim, reinforces an unfortunate but deliberate reality: that blacks who did not choose their placement in America remain unable to play themselves in projects appearing to re-present their experiences. This erasure illuminates the black abducted from Africa and displaced into the Americas as a hyper site for abduction. Our story and placement remains suitable for spaces eager to appropiate but reluctant to our collective entry. Issa Rae is of course “Black” (An African displaced in America) and Sengalese, a duality that enables her to “pass” as a model minority as content creator and as a Black American in the content’s manifestation.

Identity as a two-sided coin employed as social currency remains a praxis solely available to those with at least one parent that does not descend from the African enslaved in America.

I want to pause here and state that I cringe articulating diasporic distinction in this manner, as doing so seems to perform Willie Lynch’s desires. At the same time, it seems remiss to contemplate the ways of an anti-black society without noting the systemic practices in place to socially and systemically socially bleach black identity through the physiognomically black.  

 Moreover, Molly and Andrew, in juxtaposition, depict socially bleaching the black collective as bearing a diverse methodology. So while the black collective may have evolved from physical features in a circus, the black collective remains a source of exhibition in American culture.

Furthermore, the series’ title “insecure” not only references the systemized black millennial, but the emotions that the series strives to engender within the black viewer. 

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