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08/21/2018 12:51 pm ET Updated Aug 22, 2018

'Insecure' Goes To Work: Well-Meaning White Folks And The Damage They Do

While the work stuff is panning out, Issa is still broke and Daniel is too prideful. It’s a recipe for a painfully awkward time in the conference room and the club.
HBO

It begins in the conference room. Issa is sitting among her predominantly white colleagues, and the topic of discussion is the racist logo and premise of “We Got Y’all.” Joanne is flailing. She insists that the logo — a white hand lifting up three black children — can’t be racist.

“It’s my hand,” she explains. It’s not a handout, it’s a hand out.”

 It becomes clear as day what Issa is working with as she tries to pay her bills. “Insecure” has always placed Issa in awkward situations while using her facial expressions and fantasies of lashing out to highlight the moment’s underlying message. This scene in particular harks back to all the times she tried to tell her job that the logo, the mission and even the name was going to come back to bite them. Now that it has, Issa, marginalized at work, her feelings so often rejected, can’t even revel in the fact that she was right because Joanne and the rest of the team want her to fix a mess she didn’t even create.

Throughout the episode, Issa is forced to navigate the many faces of rejection. She texts Daniel to check up on him, only to receive a half-assed response. She can’t find housing, and then, in a meeting with our fave Kelli, she discovers that she can’t even afford to live on her own. It’s evident that if Issa wants better, she’s gonna have to stop playing and do better.

On this edition of Run That Back, Taryn Finley and Julia Craven discuss being pushed aside at work, the damage often done by well-meaning white folks and Daniel’s fragile-ass ego.  

Taryn: Who took the most L’s this episode? Issa or Daniel?

Julia: Issa. And it’s not close.

Taryn: This episode was real humbling for sis. I’m glad she realized that she gotta be a better person ’cause she been getting over on a lot of folks this entire series.

Daniel is tired of her shit but not over her which is why he’s being generous as hell in the first place. He in love.

Julia: And I would like to state for the record that I want them to workout, and I think they will.

Work out, not workout. They clearly workout.

Taryn: I, too, would like for them to work out (and to know their workout regimen) but more than that, I want this show to stay on the air so I know they can’t work out lmao.

Julia: I’m trying not to be rational like that. Because I’m a sucker for love, especially black love.

Taryn: Me too. But this show thrives on people not having their shit together, and I’m glad we’re starting to really get into Daniel’s flaws (I’ll read him later). Both Issa and Daniel have a lot of personal shit they have to deal with before they get with ANYBODY. I think they both look for other people to save them in different ways and they gotta let go of that.

Plus, Daniel lie on his dick too much. Acting like he don’t care when he do. That short-ass reply to Issa when she texted him at the beginning was a whole front. He is, indeed, a petty king.

Julia: I know you’re right, but I’m dying on this hill.

Taryn: And I’ll let you ’cause it really does sound good lol.

Julia: I’ve chosen my hill. I have decided to die here. Is this how men who defend predators feel?

Taryn: Oh you’ve got a ways to go before reaching that valley. Don’t worry.

Julia: Praying I never cape that hard because whew chile. The ghetto.

Taryn: THE GHETTO. 

Before I drag the idea of DanIssa FURTHER, let’s drag Joanne, ’cause the meeting scene hit home.

Julia: Let’s fucking drag her, sis. Shall I go or shall you?

Taryn: I’ma hand the baton to you cause I know you finna go tf off.

Julia: Thank you, my sister. The first thing I wanna say is, WHAT DID WE TELL Y’ALL ABOUT THAT ALLY SHIT LAST WEEK?!

Frieda, Issa's co-worker, on "Insecure."
HBO
Frieda, Issa's co-worker, on "Insecure."

Next, when she said: “It’s not racist. It’s my hand. It’s not a handout, it’s a hand out.”  That showed us perfectly just how much a lot of well-meaning white people don’t understand their bounds, anti-blackness, racism as a SYSTEM of oppression ― keep that surface-level “I don’t say nigga” shit ― and how they ultimately pander to their perceptions of blackness as opposed to helping a community more broadly.

And then for her to have had the audacity to treat Issa like she didn’t know what she was talking about last episode????

Joanne got me HOT. She doesn’t understand her bounds. You’re not black, beloved. You can’t throw on your white savior cape, become Captain Save A Nigga and not expect backlash from black and brown people. Then she blackballed the one black woman in her organization. So she’s actually uninterested in helping black people advance on their own. She just wants to be a savior. Keep it. Keep Joanne. Put her in the trash can.

Taryn: Let’s go ahead and get all the office interactions Issa had outta the way now cause the spirit is moving me to drag a gaggle of well-meaning white folks who don’t listen to black people. The fact that it took three seasons for her wack-ass coworkers to realize that the logo is racist kills me but is very unsurprising.

Then ― after y’all have fostered an environment that doesn’t encourage the only black woman to speak freely without judgment or punishment ― y’all look to her to fix the mess Y’ALL created with this fucked-up name, logo and business practice. Y’all are trash and y’all are exemplary of all offices where black people are tokenized. Issa BEEN telling y’all how fucked up this company is yet y’all didn’t listen to her. Now y’all are in trouble, and she has to come up with solutions. Oh.

Then, while Issa was at lunch with Frieda and her other coworkers, they STILL didn’t see the problem. Talmbout the bigger issue is that the logo is ugly, not racist. I laughed at that part because I shit you not, somewhere in America right now a white coworker is having a similar conversation with their black coworker and it’s only Monday. I’m really over the bullshit. If Frieda really wanted to be an “ally,” she’d grab her fucking balls and boss up to Joanne. She knows Joanne is wrong yet she wants to play passive when just last season she was trying to teach Issa a lesson about speaking up for Latinx kids who were being treated unfairly in school. She too on the fence for me and that actually pisses me off more than somebody who is overtly racist and aware of it.

The burden of being the only one in the room is real and Issa shouldn’t have to speak up about every fucking thing. Especially since y’all know she on the chopping block.

Julia: I have no additions. That was beautiful. And oh so fucking true. Whew. A whole sermon on Monday morning.

Taryn: It was on my spirit. You ask black people to “speak up,” “find solutions” and all that, yet when they walk into your African art-filled office and tell them to hire more black people, the only thing you have to say is “I’ll think on it.” Joanne can choke along with Frieda and the rest of the clan.

Julia: I do think it’s funny how they really want black women to fix everything, but they don’t want to listen to us along the way. Like, this could have been avoided if they had listened to Issa from jump.

Taryn: It could all be so simple, but they’d rather make it hard.

Julia: It’s as simple as “I’m black, I’m hip to the jig so I have a solid gauge on whether something is racist.” Issa isn’t Stacey Dash. She knows what she’s talking about.

Taryn: Yup. And because they’ve discounted her experience and viewpoints for so long, she doesn’t feel like her opinions are valid in that space. Yes, she’s awkward, but she’s not dumb, and she’s being made to look like the latter. It happens to so many of us.

Julia: Way too many of us. And like you said now she’s at the point where she doesn’t wanna say ANYTHING because she feels like it doesn’t matter. The way black women are pushed aside and broken in the workplace is wild. They break us.

Taryn: WHEW. I need a drink cause these office scenes are honestly among the most triggering on this show. Calls my therapist.

Julia: I see mine next week so I’m just gonna unload like I always do. Thank God for black women ― especially the ones who are therapists.

Taryn: They be getting us through. For real.


Jada is enjoying her time in the studio with Uncle Daniel, but she’s curious as to why he doesn’t have any ratchet tunes. He scoffs, previewing just how fragile his ego is when it comes to his music. Meanwhile, Kelli is trying to help Issa take control of her finances since Issa can’t seem to do so herself. After realizing just how bad her 425 credit score is, Issa considers moving back in with her brother. That’s not an option since he’s now growing weed in the spare room. So Issa tucks her pride in and asks Daniel if she could stay longer. He reluctantly agrees to one more week.

Julia: Speaking of black women getting us through, I wanna give a special shoutout to Young Jada. I hope she keeps hanging around.

Taryn: That lil girl is going places. Not only was she clean as a whistle in that sweatsuit, but she was also highkey giving her Uncle Daniel some much-needed career advice. “Sometimes I just want to be ratchet. Your music be making me want to think.” Jada knows what and who’s hot ’cause she’s young and doesn’t have bills to pay so Daniel really needs to listen to what she’s saying. If Daniel wants to be more than a SoundCloud producer, he gotta meet the masses halfway. I know he isn’t passionate about the less complicated sounds, but it would behoove him to study the patterns of the industry rather than lean on his own ego.

Julia

Sometimes I wanna hear A Boogie. Sometimes I wanna hear Kendrick. Other times I’m cool with meeting in the middle near Travis Scott. Daniel’s issue is that he’s prideful and he lacks range because he frowns upon “less complicated” sounds.

Taryn: And WE as consumers know the value of range but Daniel ain’t got out of his own way to learn that yet. Maybe Issa can teach him since her ass ain’t paying rent.

Julia: We all gotta get out of our own way in regards to range. I know I did, Lord.

Taryn: Shit, I probably still do but don’t see it yet. I’ll pray about it at some point today.

And something necessary for range is flexibility. And the flexibility to live on anything but somebody’s couch is something that Issa doesn’t have right now due to that 425 credit score.

Julia: That shit was hella triggering. It gave me an anxiety attack. 425? You can’t do shit with a 425.

Taryn: I already get chest pains fucking with Issa but that sent me over the edge. If Kelli’s silly ass wasn’t in that scene, I know I would’ve fallen physically ill. And I know she was reviewing Issa’s finances for free because what money.

Julia: I appreciate Kelli for being a friend and looking out. I’ve been that low in money before and I ruined my credit in college. However, unlike Issa, I focused on paying off my debt and bringing my score back high enough to rent a fucking apartment. It’s not easy. I know it’s not. I’ve been blessed with a job that allows me to be able to pay shit off and keep it paid off. But to be 30 with a decent-paying job and a score that low is indicative of a bigger issue in regard to how she manages finances to me.

If she was 20, OK. It’s bad, but OK. She’s 30-something though. So if her money is anything like her love life, well.

Taryn: Kelli is honestly the best friend in this show. She’s consistent and looks out for the people in her circle. And I’m sure she’s tried to help get Issa together before she reached this point.

I think Issa got here because a) she has a pattern of self-sabotage in every part of her life except her wardrobe and b) she got comfortable so when shit hit the fan she had nothing to fall back on. That’s scary.

Julia: Very scary. And it’s so easy to keep telling yourself that it’ll all be OK, which is fine, but when it comes to money you need a backup plan. You need savings.

HBO

Taryn: And the fact that Issa wasn’t even aware of how bad her credit score was is indicative of that. I like this subtle message of the importance of financial literacy this season, and I hope we see more of it.

I also hope we see more of Kelli ’cause that’s my girl.

Julia: I do, too, because it’s time to start thinking smart about money. Kelli is the only person I like on this show.

Taryn: When she told Issa, “Don’t look a gift horse in the dick,” EYE FELL OUT.

Julia: “You concubinin?”

Taryn: “Should I fuck Warren?”

Julia: I want Kelli to fuck Warren because I want her to be happy.

Taryn: So, last year, I spoke to Natasha Rothwell about playing Kelli and a lot of her best lines are ad libs, which I live for. She’s such an amazing comedian.

Julia: See, I couldn’t not laugh my ass off. But this is why Issa Rae is Issa and I’m Julia.

Taryn: She said she makes it a goal for her scene partners to break character. The way my goofy-ass funny bone is set up, I’m sure they’d fire me on Day 1.

Julia: I want to briefly discuss Issa’s brother growing weed in her room. I don’t have much to say about it. Just that I fucking howled when he said: “Too late. Me and bae are growing weed in your room.”

Taryn: I really need to see more of her brother in this show. I specifically need to see him and Kelli interact again because I cried real tears when they were bickering at Issa’s party last season.

Julia: I love how much they hate each other and how much his trash-ass loves Tiffany’s trash ass.

Taryn: This is making me want to take a step back and acknowledge how funny black people are as a whole. Like we are HILARIOUS. I’ve never in my life laughed harder than when I’m just hanging out with my black-ass friends, and this show does a good job of highlighting the genuine humor that we bathe in every day. I love us for real.

Julia: That’s the beauty of it. It feels familiar. Like, we all know an Issa or a Molly or a Kelli or a Tiffany. And we may be close with them. We kick it with them, all that. It feels like home.

Taryn: Idk if I can kick it with Tiffany cause I’ll end up arguing with that bitch. I say argue cause I’m trying really hard not to threat folks anymore.

Julia: I would say that I would box Tiffany but seeing as how Amanda Seales has me blocked on Twitter I will not comment.

Taryn: OOP! 

We get another fairly intimate glance at Daniel as he spends time with Vanessa, who may or may not be his girlfriend. It’s not clear. Daniel starts getting excited about potentially meeting up-and-coming rapper Spyder. When he tries to talk to Vanessa about it, she brushes him off. Meanwhile, Issa starts trying to earn her keep by tidying up around Daniel’s apartment.

Julia: Anyway, let’s talk about another light-skinned character who ain’t shit: Vanessa.

Taryn: Vanessa is ... she just ... deep sigh. She isn’t as pressed as Daniel makes her out to be, but she is just not doing it for me. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Idk if she was dismissive of Daniel because he had been there for three days straight ― which, I get it girl, 72 hours is a long time ― or if that’s how she acts all the time, but she seemed very surface-level to me.

First impressions count and I’ve already counted that bitch out.

Julia: Can I read her? I have a READ.

Taryn: Pulls up a seat.

Julia: I don’t like Vanessa. While I 100 percent understand that a man being around for three days can feel like too long for that nigga to be around, she was so dismissive of his dreams and aspirations. He was so hype about getting to meet Spyder (who I will drag later) but she just shit on the club, before shitting on the party scene, before she finally starting talking over him because Lonzo Ball had on one of them funky-ass $500 hoodies she plugs on the company’s Twitter.

(Shout out to Issa Rae for getting that sponsorship money though. I ain’t mad. All Vlone shit be sold out. It’s like a new wave of Supreme only not as good.)

So even though Daniel lied about Vanessa being upset over Issa sleeping on the couch, that behavior is why another woman is sleeping on her man’s couch. She doesn’t care about Daniel and Daniel is a sensitive nigga who needs love and affection. So he’s seeking it out in Issa.

She’s very vapid and self-absorbed. She’s like a less financially well-off version of Molly.

HBO

Taryn: THAT’S what it is. Thank you for articulating that, Auntie. Cause she really doesn’t care about anyone but herself and her career. She’s a hypebeast who cares about a look more than she cares about substance. And Daniel is too complex for that shit. When he likes someone, he pours so much effort into making them comfortable that it’s easy for someone like Vanessa to step all over him.

Julia: It seems like in their dynamic, it can only be about her dreams, which is fucked up.

Taryn: I hope she won’t be around long, but the way this show is set up, I’m sure we’ll get another opportunity to drag her down the line.

Julia: Of course. She doesn’t strike me as a Tasha, who, in hindsight, was a hero.

Taryn: I was about to say I regret all the grief I gave Tasha but I don’t. Her ass knew he who shall not be named had a girlfriend but still showed up to Best Buy trying to get that work. Still, she’s less trash than Vanessa.

Julia: Damn, I conveniently forget about that. Damn it.

Taryn: Season 1 was so long ago, sis. I don’t blame you. I lived when she told that nigga off, but Tasha the teller is still an aspirational homewrecker.

Julia: Everybody is trash.

Taryn: Yeup.

Julia: Issa also just started being a good house guest this episode. It took a month for her to pick up a broom ― the least she could do ― but she picked it up.

Taryn: It really took that long for ole girl to clean tf up. Living rent-free yet it just dawned on you that maybe you should help out around the house. Girl, you trash and you stink. I really believe that if you living on a couch rent-free and you ain’t bleached shit at least once, you have to have an odor to you. You don’t care about yourself or others.

I’m mad.

And not only are you dirty, you living with a dirty-ass nigga who managed to get weed crumbs in his toaster, which was also shelter for a dead spider. You know what, y’all dirty asses deserve each other. Go be musty in love together.

Julia: You. Trash. And. You. Stink. Go be musty in love together.

It leaves me to wonder if she was ever washing her own dishes or anything because why on God’s earth did it take damn near a month for you to grab a broom?

Taryn: And remember her car still smells like vomit. Like girl, do you even know how to clean?

Julia

Twitter

When Daniel gets home, he and Issa have a serious conversation about his pride and reluctance to do the networking required to advance his career. 5even (pronounced “seven”), the rapper he’s been working with, can no longer come to the club and introduce him to Spyder. While Daniel rants about “not chasing this nigga down,” Issa explains to him that he should be a bit more humble and open to doing what it takes. When Daniel explains that he doesn’t want to go to the club alone, Issa offers to join them. They run into Khalil, another producer whom Daniel trained but who is much more famous, at the door. To Daniel’s reluctance and Issa’s insistence, Khalil gets them into the club and introduces him to Spyder — a Chris Brown-meets-Ty Dolla Sign character who is really uninterested in talking to a flailing Daniel. Somebody starts shooting in the club, Daniel and Issa dash out and end up talking about his pride again over chilli cheese fries.

HBO

Julia: I do like how this scene parlayed into Issa collecting Daniel’s edges about how prideful his is. If you want connections, you gotta earn them. You gotta pull up on people and be like, “Listen to this.” Shit, J. Cole pulled up on Hov and handed him a mixtape. Hov declined, but still, Cole took his shot.

Taryn: Daniel relied on 5even for the alley oop because he was comfortable and didn’t want to risk his pride. He didn’t come through because he was probably at ole girl house where he left his ketchup packets. That’s neither here nor there, but Daniel knows 5even is unreliable. But he’d rather be disappointed than humble. And honestly, if it wasn’t for Issa saying, “Hey, let’s go in with Khalil since he’s offering,” he would still be standing outside the club waiting for his name to magically appear on the list. The male ego is so fragile.

Julia: So fucking fragile and for what? Like when they were at the club and he had on that hideous sweater he lied to Khalil about having a table and was so resistant to let the guy help him out.

There’s nothing wrong with taking help. We all need it at times. And would you rather be a failure or take help you need to get to where you wanna be? But some people don’t realize that and that there’s no shame to be had in needing help. Don’t be Issa and ALWAYS need help. But you know what I mean.

Taryn: Daniel really pissed me off at the clurb. Like, I get feeling down on yourself about where you are versus where you wanna be in comparison to others, but that is a toxic way of assessing what YOU need for YOUR growth. That shit has gotten worse with this social media shit too ’cause everybody is striving for fame now. Daniel is jealous because he “got good” and Khalid “got famous.” OK then, work with him, nigga. He’s literally trying to help you open a door but you wanna be pissy in this hot-ass cardigan at the club.

Also fame ain’t for everybody and that’s OK.

Julia: I know he was musty in that cardigan. He had to be, Lord.

When you see other people moving forward at the pace you THINK ― key word ― you should be moving, it can be demoralizing. But you can’t stay stuck there. Khalil is famous. Work with him. He’s offering you the opp to work with him. I appreciated Issa grounding him and saying it doesn’t have to be a competition. Both of them can eat.

Taryn: Me too. Issa is good for him when she isn’t being self-centered all the time.

Julia: It’s just wild how everybody wants to be the best, period, instead of the best at what they do. Like, nigga, you not Beyoncé. Calm it down. There’s nothing wrong with being the best, period, but there’s also nothing wrong with being the best at what you do.

Taryn: MESSAGE!

Julia: The best art is a collab anyway. Shit, look at Run That Back. Shameless plug, okurrrrr.

Taryn: HELLO!!!! 

LMAO THAT’S THE FIRST THING THAT POPPED UP. And I like it. LMAO.

Julia

Taryn: NOT “SAINTS & SINNERS” ON BOUNCE TV!

Julia: Bodie 😞

Taryn: I’m lost. Who?

Julia: That’s not “The Wire”? Wow. LMAO.

Taryn: hguriefhgfuieshguisr. MA’AM

Julia: I swear to God that man looks like this one.

HBO

Maybe it’s the same man, different show. I don’t fucking know.

Taryn: It look like it.

Julia: Now I’m thinking about that “Pick Me” tweet featuring him lmao.

Taryn: Why was that in my head when I was on my way to work today ’cause I saw a group of pigeons?

Julia: khbvewfbewihbfrjhfeknfhefg. Please don’t speak about me that way. I am a singular pigeon.

Taryn: MA’AM. I’M CRINE.

Julia: BA’CAW !

Taryn: Birds of a feather, sis. We flocking or whateva.

Julia: Is it flock or flop bc I be saying flop bc I’m country.

Taryn: So those are two different phrases. “Birds of a feather flock together” refers to us while “Birds of a feather flop together” references the cast of “Love & Hip Hop Hollywood.”

Julia: GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE. BYE. GOODBYE!

Taryn: I’m on one today, I know. I’m letting the spirit of Aretha move me all week long.

Julia: I love it. Be Teyana, not Jeremih.

Taryn: Oooo. I’m get that tatted.

Julia: But, speaking of birds, I’m glad this episode leveled Daniel and Issa more. They’re kinda in the same place in life right now as far as being broken and frustrated with how shit is going for them. Daniel seems like he gets in his head about shit and starts doubting himself, while Issa — despite her many, many flaws — has always been fairly realistic. You may have to call something about herself to her attention, but shorty is realistic. I’m glad she’s bringing a sense of realism to Daniel’s self-demoralizing tendencies. He gets so down on himself, and it’s nice he has someone who’ll pull him out, which is another reason I assume he can’t shake her.

HBO

Taryn: I just hope that this doesn’t get to a point where they’re unfairly using each other. They’re in such close physical proximity being under the same roof and both are very vulnerable right now so I really hope that they check themselves so that they don’t become overbearing. Their chemistry, their awkwardness and their passion for music are all reasons why they work. If there’s any hope for them to actually get together, Issa needs to move out as soon as she can and then they can do it the right way. ’Cause as Issa said last season, their shit is always so messy.

Julia: Mess becomes Issa.

Taryn: And Issa becomes mess.

Julia: **was born mess. Also, you know what we gotta discuss?

Taryn: Whet?

Julia: The Twitter rhetoric of how Issa is supporting Daniel but not Lawrence.

Taryn: Ugh. Let’s go ahead and cuss some niggas out. I was rolling my eyes so hard at my TL last night. Then again, when am I not?

Julia: I was real over it because there are so many differences between Daniel and Lawrence.

One: Daniel has dreams within his current career. He’s also given us no indication that he would sit at home all day in pajamas and then forget his girlfriend’s birthday.

Also, Issa was fed up with Lawrence. She wanted out and she got out in a hella fucked-up way. No one is saying Issa wasn’t wrong. She 100 percent was. However, the biggest diff is that she LIKES Daniel. She ain’t like Lawrence like that.

Taryn: Yup. Daniel is so much more attentive to Issa than Lawrence was.  I think comparing the situation is apples and oranges. This whole non-argument came from hurt niggas wanting to find a reason to justify their hurt when it’s not even about them.

Julia: They just want Lawrence back, which is weird and telling. The men we date aren’t the damn point of our stories. Do they play a role? Yes. But it’s about a black woman’s journey and Lawrence isn’t a part of that anymore. So, boop.

Your ex taking a journey without you. Go worry about that.

Taryn: And that’s that.

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