HBO's 'Insecure' Gets Lazy on Education and Crazy on Race: 'Black People Can't Really Be Racist'

This week, the August 20th episode of HBO's Insecure went from a-little-too-political to being over-the-top in a way that is just lazy. In this episode, Hella Shook, main character Issa (Issa Rae) and Frieda (Lisa Joyce), her coworker at an after-school program, revisit their previous argument over whether or not white people have a responsibility to say something when they see a person of color behaving in a way that's detrimental to the students, and go for that progressive boogey man: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

In the first of these back-to-back scenes, Issa is at the school where she works at an after-school program to benefit students of color. It's as though the writers of the scene were given a mandate to make the scene political, but weren't feeling particularly creative that day, so they just threw in some words that would please the left. 

Joanne: ...to give opportunities to students who have an interest in the arts. So, everyone, think about which of your kids would be a good fit.

Male Teacher: God, arts education is so important for kids like these.

Female Teacher: Especially in this climate. Betsy DeVos.

Joanne: And with the state of things in this country, people seem to not be hearing each other.

Issa: I bet you she's gonna say "Now more than ever."

Joanne: ...Unity are vital to our mission now more than ever.

Betsy DeVos is a favorite target, probably more than any other Secretary of Education in history. People who probably couldn't name three other past Secretaries of Education are jumping on the bandwagon to mock her. Jimmy Fallon, for example, makes her out to be an airhead, New York Magazine calls her an "underperformer," a "zealot," and a "bully," and a Daily Show comedian claimed she likes to make children cry. Not only are these attacks untrue, unfounded, and unfair, they would be decried as sexist if she were a liberal. As a conservative woman, she is considered fair game.

Speaking of fair game, in the next scene, the two characters discuss when racism is ok and when it isn't. No, seriously. 

After the meeting, Issa and Frieda discuss a previous issue they had with a (black) school administrator who was being racist towards Hispanic students. As you may recall from my previous writings, Frieda was uncomfortable when this first happened, but deferred "the oppressed cannot be the oppressor," and Issa wanted to let it go. It turns out she is still uncomfortable with having let it go.

Issa: Hey, can we talk? 

Frieda: Honestly, I don't know what to say. 

Issa: Well, clearly you're upset about something, so...You know you can just talk to me. 

Frieda: I still feel weird about just going along with Gaines.

Issa: ( Scoffs ) Still? I was just trying to make the best out of the situation. 

Frieda: It seemed like you were trying to help yourself more than-- 

Issa: Do you know how many racist-ass Gaines types there are out there? And, truthfully, black people can't really be racist like that, so. 

Frieda: Yes, they can. Racism is about having the power to manipulate a situation against someone. 

Issa: Oh, so you're just gonna be literal? 

Frieda: ...Yes.

Issa: It must be nice to have the privilege to choose to be upset over this. 

Frieda: So, you're saying I can never call out when someone of color's doing something wrong? 

Issa:  Kinda.

Frieda: That's not fair. 

Issa:  Well, that's the world we live in.

Frieda: Maybe it is. I just expected more from you. 

Issa admits that Gaines is a racist, then says that he can't really be racist because he's black. Obviously, she can't have it both ways. So, Issa won't do anything about it and says that Frieda can't. These students (who are, you will remember, also students of color), who count on the adults around them to be on their side are, apparently, just out of luck. It sounds to me like school choice, championed by Betsy DeVos is the best thing that could happen to these kids, to get them away from such adults as these. 


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