This is an email from Black on Both Sides, a newsletter by Established in 1865.

Girlfriends

My sister-in-law and I have been binging Girlfriends during weekday evenings and I am reminded again as to how much I loved the show.

I watched a lot of Black focused TV growing up- the Fresh Prine of Bel-Air, Martin, Roc, Family Matters, Sister Sister, Smart Guy, the Jamie Foxx Show, the Steve Harvey Show, Moesha, the Parkers, Malcolm and Eddie, and my personal favorite, Homeboys in Outer Space.

Anyone remember this show with Eddie Griffin?

I grew up in a household where my father had me reading books on Black history as soon as I had mastered phonics. A lot of the media I consumed delegated Black people to the sidelines. I had love for Gerald from Hey Arnold!, but the show was about the adventures of Football Head and not the way cooler friend with the flat-top. Suzie Carmichael from Rugrats was the most level-headed of the toddlers and always checked what we would now call Angelica Pickle’s privilege. Barret from Final Fantasy VII was…well, a big and angry Black guy with a gun-arm whose life path caused him to become an eco-terrorist.

Watching the before-mentioned shows tempered the messages white supremacy tried to instill in me about Black personhood. I was able to see, on TV, Black people of varied professional, romantic, and inner lives. There were imbalances, of course — Moesha is horrible with the fat jokes toward Kim Parker, and there were no LBGTQ relationships to show that love is love is love. But consuming these shows taught me Black people could have full lives wherever we landed — in NYC, in LA. Hell, we even had a place in outer space!

Even on “Girlfriends,” The Bunk was strictly a suit and tie m*therfucker.

Seeing Wendell Pierce, one of our finest actors, on Girlfriends had me consider the number of stories hidden within this era of Black personhood. I’m excited and have already outlined some posts that I hope to share with you all in the next few weeks!

What I’m Writing

I don’t have any new stories this week because I was working on a piece for GEN magazine that hopefully will go live soon. To keep up with the recent events of the times, though, feel free to read some of these older stories:

Charted Territory: Notes on the Impending Confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I dug up this old piece from the blog to show the consequences of Trump appointing a new, conservative Supreme Court justice. “As he drags American into its fourth period of night — slavery, segregation, mass incarceration, and whatever political reality his actions pave the way for during the remainder of my generation — we need to remind ourselves that this is charted territory.”

Blood on the Pavement: White Supremacy Guides our Response to the Shooting of Megan Thee Stallion. Tory Lanez, the cockroach of a man who shot Megan Thee Stallion in her feet, released his album on Friday. Why didn’t Meg go to the police?

Why invite more scrutiny? It is the nature of white supremacy to find anything they can to justify their imaginations. Where there is law, there is crime; and in this hegemony, her blood on the pavement would not stop them from killing her dead.

What I’m Reading

‘Girlfriends’ star Reggie Hayes was on top of the world. Now the Chicago native is struggling to find work and battling congestive heart failure. “Those were pretty awful years. I made it work with my little residual checks for a year and then I ended up moving into my sister’s garage for six years.”

Tracee Ellis Ross Felt Lost in Hollywood. Then She Changed Course. “The Black-ish star and Emmy nominee figured she’d made it when she scored the lead role in the early-2000s sitcom Girlfriends. But it would be 14 more years before she hit her stride.” If the daughter of Diana Ross had to struggle so, what chance do we mere Black mortals have?

Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. I finished the book today and cannot help but contrast it with Afropessimism by Frank Wilderson III. Wilkerson ends on a hopeful note, that by understanding how caste works, we can overcome it. Wilderson is less optimistic. He feels that Black people will forever remain the “foil of humanity.” I think over the coming weeks, as I write stories and chew on the book, my opinion will solidify.

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Hal H. Harris

Black on Both Sides. Medium Writers Challenge Winner. The founder of Established in 1865. I Tweet @Established1865. E-mail is hal.harris@est1865.com.