Disrespectful Moments from Insecure episode “Hella Disrespectful”

  • Molly’s Wig (s): Yvonne Orji is a beautiful woman. Yet her gorgeous African figures succumb to the unstated tragedy of unfla24-molly-2.w710.h473.2xttering wigs. This proves that inauthentic hair, be it a wig, weave, or unnatural hair color, is simply an injustice and insult to black beauty. FYI, I feel the same way about Issa’s dyed tresses, as it suggests that natural hair is more approachable or attractive if an unnatural color.
  • The Hyper-sexual Black Female:  Black women on prime time television function as an SOS that states WARNING  MARRIED WOMEN!! Black women will steal your man and have sex with him in bathrooms or AV closets (Scandal) when you are just steps away. aparna-1920
  • Lawrence and his non-black arm candy to an otherwise all black event: The series depicts the black man as driven away from the black woman due to her hyper-sexuality—a depiction that paints the black female body as a catalyst for black male emasculation. This of course veils the acts of a villainous white male patriarchal system as the misdeeds of black women.
  • The cantankerous,  heavy-set black woman: Kelli, the full-figured friend performs a familiar caricature. She’s the comedic relief, she’s comfortable in casual relationships to which many interpret as “winning.” However, an alternative kelli-1920interpretation may deem Kelli’s actions an acquiescence to an inferior position in the social hierarchy. Is Kelli funny? Yes! Is she beautiful? Yes. But her beauty is betrayed by way of humor, doing little to advance or challenge the way we as black people view big black women.
  • Light=Right: It is not accidental that Tiffany, the black female character with fair skin and a blonde weave appears the most conventional in the series. Tiffany, the Beyonce of the series, is married, whereas her tiffany-1920darker counterparts have issues keeping men and avoiding self-sabotage. She’s also sexually liberated. In the previous episode, Tiffany gloated about her willingness to perform fellatio, referencing her performance as instrumental in landing her a ring—illustrating the fairer skin woman as incurring opportunity where the darker skin woman incurs objectification.
  • Colorism Part 2: It is also worth mentioning that Dro, Molly’s fair-skinned, childhood friend  also bears a disturbing function on the series. Dro is married to a chocolate woman who he said proposed the idea of an open marriage. Molly finds herself within their arrangement, creating a love triangle where a lighter skin male sexually  Dro-S2-E7engages with two women of a darker hue in a manner that resembles their plantation use. Although he seems gentle and sweet to both his wife Candace and Molly, Dro devalues black women in a manner nurtured and encouraged by the white supremacy that dominates the globe. 
  • A convo isn’t a convo without the n-word: The n word is used freely and frequently—present in nearly every conversation and argument featured on the series. This implies that use of the n-word is a colloquialism or accepted norm between blacks. Are there some blacks who use the term frequently without explication or much thought? Yes. Is this everyone. No. 

    issa-rae-inscure-omondi-sweatshirt
    If you look closely you can see Issa is wearing a “n*ggas” sweatshirt–deeming this racial slur a fashion choice of “urban” youth.

            It seems in the series’ desire to be edgy and “urban” foments a caricatured   performance of blacks by blacks—an image that validates not challenges white perception.

  •  The White Savior Figure

A predominately black series is unapproachable to a white audience without a white savior figure. Insecure implements this figure through Issa’s coworker, whose name will be purposely omitted from this piece to eschew affording this character any more glory. When the black principal restricts resources to only black children, the white woman deems his actions racist and holds Issa— a black woman accountable in ensuring inclusivity. gallery-1481654683-insecure-2

Sure, this act seems noble—but in reality this white woman is the epitome of a contemporary feminist–implementing anti-racist initiatives by ignoring or oversimplyfing their own racism in naming the oppressed racists  in a distorted perception of global racism. As a result, she acknowledges that her approaching a black man on a racial issue as a white woman counters her attempt at appearing antiracist, so she appoints a black woman to do her dirty work. Because it is of course, this is not racist (side eye).

It would have been a step forward in black portrayal to see Issa have an enlightened Review: ‘Insecure’ remains funny and topical in Season 2exchange with  the vice-principal, but instead she does not understand or contemplate his behavior. Issa’s white coworker of course does not understand the Vice Principal’s behavior, but she does seem to contemplate said behavior due to her internalized need to emerge as a psuedo “savior.” The white female behavior illustrated in this episode depicts a commonly ignored reality with regards to the white gaze. Namely, that much of black behavior functions as an informal anthropological experiment to white people.

But, Issa is a good slave, I mean worker, and she confronts the black male principal demanding that he include those who in their adulthood will probably view themselves as above blacks, and assume opportunities blacks fought hundreds of years to obtain.

Closing Thoughts

If it sounds like I am disappointed in the series, I am. But at the same time, I tune in to the sole series that addresses my age bracket to support a melanated woman in her creative endeavor. I also watch in hopes for improvement. Yet instead, by the end of each episode I feel as the title of this latest episode reads: Hella Disrespected.

Black Power ❤ `

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About the “Racist” Black Vice-Principal on Insecure

In Season 2 Episode 2 of Insecure viewers meet a seemingly insignificant new character. The character is Vice-Principal Gaines, an authoritative figure of a corresponding school for We Got Ya’ll—the non-profit organization Issa works for. He’s overtly inundated with responsibility, something made quite obvious. His responsibilities are far less overt than what appears to be animosity towards his Mexican constituency. Specifically, the series captures the principal joke about “building a wall,” and ordering a group of Chicano students to speak English.

Issa’s white coworker becomes quite insulted by the vice-principal’s behavior stating that she “had trouble sleeping.” She even goes on to acknowledges that “the oppressed can’t be the oppressor,” yet still asks if Issa would be what she considers “dismissive” if the principal were white. The suggested interchangeability suggests that while able to articulate the impossibility of the black racist, the fictive white liberal can not seem to understand this reality due to a failure to think outside the parameters of whiteness. Namely, most within the majority faction solely know how to process one-sidedness when things lean in their favor.  Thus, as a racist who is doing everything possible to control the impulses that this black man makes no attempt to conceal, the white woman is unable to see why Principal Gaines is not racist, but she would be under the same circumstances. This reveals an inability to properly conceptualize the term ‘wrong” as blinded by the cognitive dissonance of white supremacist thought.

The answer to the young white woman’s query, which flies over her head, lies in what she wishes to do with her knowledge—report him. Blacks are placed in scenarios like these everyday in workplaces throughout the diaspora, where they witness injustice but are often scared to speak up. Yes speaking up is the “right” thing to do, but it yields all kind of wrong. By speaking up, the black person would be risking the ability to take care of their family. They would also be risking their reputation and possibly the ability to work in their field of expertise. These are small prices to pay for those possessing a revolutionary mindset, but these mindsets are few and far between.

It is also imperative to mention that by choosing to “stand-up” the black person is almost always going to have to stand alone. As a white woman, Issa’s coworker does not have to fear systemic retaliation or a lack of support. Even though Issa does not want to partner  with her white coworker, this white woman can easily find support with those in higher places. Issa’s unwillingness to stand beside her white coworker to take down a black man is an accidentally strong depiction in the series. I say accidental because while her actions are respectable, Issa’s actions appear seems less about principle and more about a personal desire to get ahead at work.

The superficial portrayal of Vice-Principal Gaines however, is not a strong depiction. The image seems to reflects a “person of color” at odds with another “person of color” but in actuality depicts a black man opposing the partial assimilation of those wishing to appropriate his oppressed state. As the descendants of abducted Africans, much of the African diaspora has lost their native language and their native names. Black culture has been largely extinguished by white evil—so the contempt the series depicts this black man having towards Chicanos is a rightful rage against a systemized demon that stripped him of a collective identity. The stripped nature of an identity hollowed by white settlers and retained by their descendants is perhaps most obvious that the principal reprimands these persons of color IN ENGLISH.

Thus, despite the series efforts to depict the vice-principal as systemically disenfranchising his Chicano students by solely extended the supplementary resources of We Got Ya’ll to the black demographic, Gaines is merely an oppressed black man trying to afford an oppressed constituency something they may never get again in their lives–a chance.  Even with a slight advantage, those black children will still have to navigate their lives without the ability to pass for white, without access to their native tongue, without knowledge of their history, and without the ability to escape the cyclical disenfranchisement that waits them at every corner.

The series also  fails to combat the reality that other persons of color stealthy do exhibit similar behavior for their own groups. How is this any different that the jobs Asians, Hispanics, Chicanos, Indians, and Whites provide for their own without even considering hiring a qualified black worker? If hired by these other groups, blacks are typically  overworked, underpaid, and solicited to police their own people i.e. the migrant black man hired to follow his own people around a store owned by a white man or person of color. Moreover, when blacks place their own first it’s negative, but when other groups do it its nationalism.

There are many different routes the series could have taken to illustrate the issues between blacks and other factions of color. The instance that comes to mind is the recent comments George Lopez made about “not marrying someone black” as a member of the Chicano or Latino collective. Instead the series seeks to state a commonly overlooked truth, blacks cannot be racist, but place this truth in the backdrop by suggesting that—while they should not be able to be racist—they are. This is even more detrimental on a show dominated by black presence, from the writers to the actors. Thus, this paradoxical performance infiltrates both the mind of the oppressed and oppressor to cultivate a collective misunderstanding of black thought and behavior.

Insecure is the perfect platform to challenge the caricatured black identity that continues to dominate black portrayal, but instead the series maintains the single dimension allotted to blacks since their forced arrival. So while I am thankful for another opportunity to analyze, I am disappointed that another black within the collective has once again opted to entertain rather that educate, which is a choice to appease not agitate the system that continues to hold us hostage.

Insecure, An Analysis of Season 2 Episode 1

In Shonda Rhimes like fashion, Season two episode one of Issa Rae’s HBO series Insecure issues its most memorable content in the last two minutes. The episode ends with a reunited Issa and Laurence, who abruptly split after Laurence discovers Issa’s infidelity. Their reunion was brash, unemotional, and brief. Upon conclusion, Issa’s facial expression mirrored my own–mortified, regretful and confused. 

The two reunite when Laurence returns to the apartment to pick up his belongings. The two then become immersed in a brief sexual encounter, where Laurence leaves moments afterwards. This behavior is a vast contrast from the Laurence viewers meet in Season one. That Laurence was sweet and innovative. He was the contemporary frog prince–a good guy in a bad place.   detail

This once  ideal man is now tainted by infidelity. He has a casual sexual relationship with Tasha, a bank teller he met while cashing his unemployment checks. The two don’t click on a mental level, Tasha being a simple girl with modest ambitions and Laurence being a young man with mogul potential. However, although their relationship is convenient, it is hard to watch–as hard as it was to see Laurence work for a company that lacked the advancements of his own startup that although unsuccessful was a stroke of genius.

I cringe a little writing this, because as a black woman I think most of us have been Tasha. By being Tasha, I mean the rebound girl given shelf life because you fill a void. Filling this void only allows the rebound girl to possess a single dimension, something the three dimensional woman often sees in hindsight. It’s obvious that Laurence clearly likes Tasha, and we’ve all been liked in this negligible way that allows us to appreciate those in the future who appreciate all of our dimensions. Tasha is the voice in Sevyn Streeter’s Before I Do, a woman caught in the in between a man and his former love.  

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Tasha, like Laurence, appears a product of Issa’s infidelity. Because Issa cheated on Laurence when he was in transition and broke his heart, Issa emerges as an eve-like figure that hands Laurence a poisonous apple. This poisonous apple prompts Laurence to shed his nice guy exterior as an effort to protect the heart he once wore on his sleeve. 

The guy who took Issa ring shopping is now doing “drive bys,” and skipping out moments after sex. The guy who once was sweet and kind is now curt and crass. 

Now, are nice guys ruined by the poor choices of some women? Yes. But surely the reverse is true also. The issue here, is what this representation means when both parties are black. Namely, it is troubling to depict “nice black men” as ruined by black women and their sexual carelessness.

This portrayal is particularly problematic as the show appears an effort to narrate the black female experience. This reality begs the query,  must we always be a sexual villain in our own narrative? 

This is not to say that the emotions in the show are not real. Going through a breakup is scary and it takes a while to find yourself afterward. However, illustrating the black Woman as a catalyst for black male behavior is a misrepresentation of a global setting that plagues black love. 

 Issa, like so many millennials has job she does not like, and is working  ayanna-james-insecure-season-1-8desperately to make ends meet. This part of the show proves shockingly accurate to many others going through the same thing– validated in not feeling so alone or berated by an unanticipated reality. However, her indiscretion has little to do with Laurence and more to do with her general unhappiness. Discontent at work tends to birth unhappiness outside of work, something we see in the series but is not quite discussed. The discourse remains in the series’ background, which could be an artistic choice implemented to get viewers to think, but paints the series protagonist as obsessed with what could have been rather than what is. By what could have been, I’m referencing the man from her past whom Issa had always been curious about, an itch she scratches which ultimately ends her relationship. This young man  is of course an escapist route that Issa takes to avoid confronting the real issues in her life. This is another relatable moment that is veiled superficially as curiosity, a curiosity that fizzles after the two consummate their lust–depicting the black female as carelessly hyper sexual.  

This act does not only offset the course of Issa’s life but the other parties involved, as both men are hurt by her selfish deed. Just as Eve’s curiosity ruined the generations to come, Issa appears the catalyst for Laurence’s metamorphosis from caring to callous. 

x240-lH_Realistically, black love is hard. Had the system favored Issa and Laurence, the unemployment that drove a wedge between them would potentially not exist. Had cyclical disenfranchisement not been a real things, perhaps Issa would not have sought to escape, and Laurence would not have had to compromise his ambitions to work for himself. This is not functioning as an  excuse, but as an explanation the elephant in the room of so many black relationships. Love is hard for everyone, but a relationship between two bodies systemized in every way possible is exceedingly difficult.  Thus, the series’ portrayal of Issa as a black woman who morphs the good guy into a hyper sexual beast with her own immutable sexuality– thereby offers a shallow reputation of what it means for two black people to love each other in the context of global racism. 

Separating the black woman from the sexualized image allotted to her during slavery is an ongoing struggle in black female portrayal. However, this depiction becomes more concerning when efforts to counter this image nullify advancement with a unintentional revelation of internalized racist perceptions. 

These portrayals prompt the query as to whether or not the antagonized black female protagonist will eventually surface as a heroine, or whether this will even be enough to undo the damage of her initial error.  Insecure

This is not to say that conflict should not accompany black bodies on the big or small screen. This is to say that oversimplifying black issues to appease the western gaze, compromises what could be an opportunity for the masses to contemplate collective behaviors and thoughts.

So, if anything, I would say that the series title “Insecure” is its most accurate attribute. This insecurity appears to lie in black female inability to reverse her obscurity from a unrelenting racist gaze.