Thursday, January 5, 2017

When keeping it real goes wrong: Lessons from Insecure's Rasheeda the Intern

Issa Rae and HBO have a new show featuring a set of accomplished Black Corporates.  They could certainly be added to our Watch Me Work post.

Molly Carter (Yvonne Orji) is a 3rd year associate at a corporate law firm and doing well for herself. She is also one of the few Black attorneys we see at her job.

Enter Rasheeda the Intern (Gail Bean), a new Black law intern who comes through the door keeping it a little too real and feeling herself a little too much.  Clearly she did not read our post Soft Skills for Summer Interns.  She's loud, boisterous and goes by "Da-Da".  She also repeatedly refers to Molly as "gurl," despite not knowing her well enough for such a causal manner of address.  When Molly tries to delicately broach the subject of Da-Da switching up a little in the office, Rasheeda gets an attitude and tells Molly that her behavior has gotten her where she is so far, so she doesn't need to change for anyone.  Rasheeda references not having to "switch it up" for her interview or when she became editor of the law review.  

Let's be clear: Past results do not guarantee future results.  If you want  to land and keep a traditional corporate job, learn how to switch it up.  It's not about being fake; it is about knowing the environment you are in and how to act accordingly. Wearing sunblock at the beach and a jacket on the ski slopes.

There are some young Black professionals who enter Corporate America and either worry so much about selling out that they overcompensate by "performing blackness" (feeding into stereotypes) or are too entrenched in their old ways to adapt to the new environment.  Rasheeda did need to switch it up, and Molly saw the potential problems Da-Da was going to face by not doing so.

Rasheeda's behavior in the workplace becomes such a problem that one of the partners asks Molly to have a talk with Rasheeda about her behavior (because it was not so long ago that Molly had been a intern, of course).  After Molly artfully declines the partner's request, Rasheeda gets called into a meeting with multiple partners at the firm.  Though we are not privy to the conversation, it is clear from Da-Da's expression that her keeping it real has gone wrong.  As Cheyenne Cochrane from Blavity put it, "Dada's face is smothered in defeat and embarrassment." Rasheeda does not appear in any further episodes of Insecure's first season.

The dynamic between Molly and Rasheeda is one that I hope the show will explore further, though it has been suggested in cast interviews that we've seen the last of Rasheeda.  The working dynamic between Black Corporates is often depicted as a competition and rarely as an opportunity for mentorship or even a healthy working relationship.

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