The following story originally appeared on Medium.
Last night, as I was watching the third episode of the second season of Insecure, I yelled at my television, "Frieda, STFU!" After feeling as if that wasn't enough, I then went to Twitter to write the same damn thing. I got a question on Twitter about it from someone who wanted to know what was wrong about the character Frieda, a white woman, telling Issa, a Black woman, that she needed to do something about a flamboyantly prejudiced Black principal. I get why folks would ask that question, chile. Instead of answering just one, I decided to answer five.
1. What happened between Frieda and Issa?
Well, after having a difficult ass time trying to get kids in their after-school programs, it seems like they finally catch a break in episode two when they meet with a oldish Black man who recognizes the value of their work and is ready to collaborate. The gag is that said principal is real hateful towards his Latinx students, students who make up 86 percent of the school's population. Frieda tells Issa something needs to be done about the principal's behavior and Issa tells Frieda she is just happy they actually have more than Oreos and popcorn present for their programming. Frieda continues to bring up this concern in episode three.
2. That's f*cked up. Didn't Frieda do the right thing by continuing to bring it up to Issa?
No, chile. No, she did not. Frieda is a white woman. Her privilege denies her the right to tell a more marginalized person how and when and what to do with the prejudice of another marginalized person. The thing about antiracism work is understanding that whiteness cannot be trusted because whiteness is about protecting whiteness at all cost. Frieda is seemingly standing up for Latinx students, students who just happen to have fair skin, students who just happen to not be Black. If the shoe was on the other foot, we'd have to ask ourselves if Frieda would see the prejudice toward Black students as clearly as she sees the prejudice towards fair-skinned Latinx students. In addition, I'm not saying that Frieda should do nothing. I'm saying that Frieda is asking Issa to take a risk that she herself has not been willing to take.
3. I'm still not buying it. I mean I think Frieda is a good person trying to do the right thing.
Having opinions is clutch. I'm not Jesus Christ so I can't say much about Frieda's goodness or if her soul is deserving of some of that eternal damnation or not, but allow me to ask you this — how many times have we seen Frieda use her whiteness to stand up to her white colleagues who have been racist towards Issa, the only Black woman on her team? How many times has Frieda used her whiteness to influence the ways her students perceive her as having more value then her Black colleague? How many times has Frieda taken a risk, without any licensing from Issa, against prejudice or bias that she sees unfold in front of her? The answer is zero times. So what is it about this time that makes it different?
4. Issa should still do something. I mean Frieda is white, so it's not like she could do anything about it.
Something should definitely be done. The first time that principal, with his wack ass, made a stereotypical, hateful comment about Latinx people, Frieda just as easily could have spoken up and said she didn't find his comments to be funny. Frieda has a mouth, too. To expect Issa to speak up while enjoying the luxury of being silent is not cool — in fact, it is the opposite of Gucci. Misognynoir is a term used to describe the intersection of racism and sexism that Black women experience. Issa speaking up to this Black man who is not only in a position of power but who is also so comfortable with his hate that he speaks openly and unabashedly about it would most likely mean that having a Black woman call him on it would equate to some form of psychological violence — whether that be kicking them out of the school and blaming Issa only, although she is joined by a white colleague, ignoring Issa's requests for assistance with the program while engaging only with her white colleague, or even contacting Issa's boss and communicating that she just didn't turn out to be a good fit for her school while failing again to mention her white colleague. Am I saying Issa gets a pass? Hell to the nawl. She should do something. What I am saying though is that Frieda is the white woman who sees her role in a complex situation of prejudice among people of color as being that of leadership. White people cannot lead brown and Black people in the fight against antiblackness and antibrowness. Brown and Black people have to do that. Whiteness is about believing one can be white and insert themselves in any situation, but the ones that require them to use their whiteness to combat the influence and harm of other white people. Because at the end of the day, Latinx students will still be unemployed and imprisoned because of whiteness.
5. So what could Frieda have done then?
White women, like Frieda's character, need to learn to stand on their own. They then watched Gone With the Wind a few too many times and see Black women as their support system to dealing with race and bias when it gets complex for them. They want to nudge Black women to do what makes them most comfortable and fail to ask Black and brown women for guidance when Black and brown women will forever know more about their lives and what it's like to live them than any white woman on the face of the motherf*ckin' planet. If Frieda really wanted to help, she could have said something when the principal made a comment that was as bad as five-day-old sweet potato pie left out the fridge in the middle of a heat wave. She could have told Issa she felt uncomfortable and asked Issa how she felt while telling her that she would defer to her lead. She could have said that regardless of the decision Issa made, she was going to go to the principal herself and tell him they needed more Latinx students in their program because (insert lie). She could have told Issa she was too uncomfortable to continue and asked to swap out with one of the other site leaders. All of the above are options that would not require Frieda to center herself in the situation.
Those are my two cents.