The Plague Of Whiteness In "Friends"

The Plague Of Whiteness In "Friends"

How Friends and Hollywood ignored socioeconomic norms in their casting

Clap, clap, clap, clap. If you're a "Friends" fan like me, then you know what I'm talking about.

The popular sitcom first aired on September 22, 1994 and was wildly successful. "Friends" received 62 Emmy nominations and has received recognition from many magazines and critics as one of the best TV shows of all time. And I agree. In the five or six years I have been obsessed with this show, I only focused on the story lines. How Rachel and Ross's love story was so complicated, how Joey was such a womanizer but was so sweet and innocent, how Chandler struggled with his childhood, how Phoebe overcame every obstacle she faced as a child, how Monica battled her obesity to become one of the best chefs in New York City and every other instance astounded and captivated me. There's no doubt that it's one of the best shows to ever grace television. But recently, I began focusing on something other than the story lines. I began focusing on the people. My question when I first started watching was, "how can this get any better?" but my question now is "how can this be any less accurate?"

"Friends" is set in New York City during the 90's, one of the largest economical growth periods in history. Money was being made and being made fast. But for six friends in their early twenties, I would have expected them to be struggling in the city of dreams, and at times they were. At different points in the series, each character had been unemployed. My confusion recently is how in the world did they manage to remain living in the biggest apartments? How did they continue to pay rent and eat without jobs? Consider this: you are a poor, barely employed person living in New York City. Where do you live and what do you look like? I asked myself this question and time and time again I kept running into the same answer. You are probably living in a poor neighborhood and you most likely have brown skin. After this realization, my ultimate question then shifted to this "WHERE ARE ALL THE BROWN PEOPLE?!"

There was not a singular person of color on the Friends main cast. The only splurges of brown we see are Gabrielle Union, who was present in one episode, and Aisha Tyler who was present in nine episodes. Lauren Tom, an actress of Chinese descent, was present in seven episodes. Yes. There were seventeen episodes out of 236 where people of color were present. I was puzzled by this disproportionate factor. It was the 90's. There were TV shows like "Martin," "Living Single," "Family Matters," "Sister Sister," "The Steve Harvey Show," "The Jaime Foxx Show," "Moesha," and who could ever forget dark-skinned Aunt Viv on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"? So many more sitcoms that centered the life of brown people were reaching peaks of success and yet NBC couldn't find one brown character to be on their main cast? It's troubling to me as this is my second favorite sitcom of all time ("Living Single" will always be number one because Maxine Shaw Attorney at Law will always be the Maverick and preached true things like this).

These shows all had fantastic writers and their plots were incredible. They faced real and serious topics with amazing talent. I'm still reminded of the episode of "The Steve Harvey Show" where the conversation around guns and drugs in the 90's was the main plot. "Living Single" and "Martin" displayed the importance of HBCUs. "Sister Sister" and "Moesha" featured characters who were young and Black and attending college. "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" demonstrated what it was like to be Black and rich after coming from the hood. Will Smith portrayed a young man who stayed true to himself and his Black culture even when people around him were uncomfortable. These sitcoms told the story of us. They were the epitome of "Unapologetically Black."

Even today, majority of sitcoms and dramas neglect the importance of Brown skin and our stories. Thanks to "Scandal," "Grey's Anatomy," "How to Get Away with Murder," "Blackish," "Sleepy Hollow," "Being Mary Jane," "Underground WGN," "Empire," and Tyler Perry's many successful shows, we now see people of color in starring roles, but there is still plenty of room for us to fill. The talent is out there, we just need the opportunity to showcase it. Hollywood has progressed in small increments, but when they realize people want to know us, they will experience success like never before.

Shonda Rhimes, one of the most successful show creators and writers of all time, said this during the Black Girls Rock! celebration on BET, "Don’t look up here to us, put us in your rearview mirror. Change the world. Then change it again." So, if you are an aspiring writer, costume designer, producer, actor, or director willing to tell the stories of people of color, please do not stop. Keep reaching for your dreams and I guarantee you'll grasp them. We need you. We need to hear your stories, so keep going.

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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.


When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

SEE ALSO: They're Not Junkies, You're Just Uneducated

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

I have learned that the cycle of addiction is not something that will continue into my life. You have hurt me more than anyone, but through that hurt, I have pushed myself to become the best version of myself.

Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

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5 Mac Miller Songs You Need To Listen To Keep His Legacy Alive In 2019

Months after his passing, Mac Miller's music is still in my constant rotation.


If anyone reading this follows me on social media or talks to me somewhat consistently, they already know how much recently I have been in a niche for Mac Miller. A few weeks ago on Twitter, an NPR Tiny Desk concert popped up on my feed (check out that NPR video here) and it just pushed me into a craving to listen to some Mac Miller.

While it was extremely difficult for me to funnel this down to five songs, I found it suiting to limit myself to this. By no means am I saying that any of these songs are the best off the album or the best from Mac in general, just some that I find very powerful.

1. Self Care - Swimming

This song came off his last album released shortly before his passing. This is personally one of my favorite songs of all time. The idea of 'self care' is something that has overtaken multiple social media platforms and slowly has become something that's original meaning has been taken out of context. Miller battled heavily with addiction and in other songs talked about his struggles. In this song, many are comforted by the lyrics, "Self care, I'm treatin' me right, yeah
Hell yeah, we gonna be alright."

2. BDE Bonus - Best Day Ever

The beginning of this song is a crescendo into a beat that loops for most of the song. Its combination of uplifting sound and carefree lyrics are a throwback to Miller's beginnings in the music industry. Miller also talks about his rise to fame in the music industry and how people used to not believe in him. "No matter where life takes me, find me with a smile. Pursuit to be happy, only laughing like a child. I never thought life would be this sweet. It got me cheesin' from cheek to cheek, aye, aye"

3. 100 Grandkids - GO:OOD AM

The first lines of this song are somber for me. The first time I listened to this song after Mac Miller's passing I seriously cried, "I made a promise to my momma. That I'll bless her with some grandkids, she can spoil them". Miller continues talking about how he is just living life until he meets the one to settle down with and love. I have grown to love the lyrics more than feel sad for them and this too is on my list of favorite songs.

4. Stay - The Divine Feminine 

This songs focal point is asking for his love to not leave him and, fitting with the song title, stay. The lyrics express not only the pain he feared from his relationship ending but the love that he had for his companion and the time they had shared together already.

5. Knock Knock

This song has hella nostalgia to me, this was the first song by Mac Miller I heard back in 2010. I vividly remember being 9 watching the music video for this one night on Music Choice back before AT&T U-Verse became DirecTV (talk about a throwback). The upbeat lyrics and beat made me giggle and the music video was even more entertaining. His album "K.I.D.S." came out that summer featuring other classic Mac Miller songs like 'Nikes on My Feet', 'Senior Skip Day' and 'Kool-Aid and Frozen Pizza'.

This one goes out to you Mac, rest easy. If you would like a playlist that includes some artists that have similar sounds or often collaborated with him, check out one of my playlists here.

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