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The American Society of Magical Negroes (2024) | Transcript

A young man, Aren, is recruited into a secret society of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making white people's lives easier.
The American Society of Magical Negroes (2024)

Aren, a young biracial African-American artist, confronts racial prejudice and societal expectations. His artwork is ignored at a gallery, and a misunderstanding at the event underscores the racial biases he faces. A subsequent altercation falsely paints him as a criminal, further highlighting the challenges of his racial identity. Aren’s disillusionment leads him to the American Society of Magical Negroes, which aims to protect African Americans by placating white people through stereotypical reassurance. Under this group’s influence, Aren finds himself aiding a white colleague, only to realize the depth of systemic racial issues at their workplace. His romantic interest in Lizzie, a multiethnic woman, complicates his role in the society. Eventually, Aren rejects the performative diversity efforts of his employer in a public stand for authenticity and equality, leading to his expulsion from the society. This defiance sparks a shift in the society’s dynamics and ends with Aren reuniting with Lizzie, suggesting a move towards genuine self-acceptance and mutual support beyond societal confines.

* * *

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(busy chatter)

♪ ♪

(disconcerting, abstract sounds)

(heavy footsteps approaching)

Sorry. Excuse me.

(chatter continues)

(upbeat music playing over speakers)

Excuse me. Sorry about that.

Oh. Sorry. (chuckles)

Yeah.

No. That’s my…

Hey, guys, I’m just gonna squeeze past you here. Sorry.

(chatter and music continues)

Hi.

Hmm.

(song changes over speakers)

Hi.

Is that yarn?

Yes. Yeah.

Huh.

(song changes)

Is it… is it yarn?

It’s y-Yeah.

It’s-it’s yarn.

(footsteps departing)

(song changes)

(chatter continues)

Thank you so much for coming.

Slow night.

Yeah.

You know, I-I don’t really need anyone to buy my art.

It would just be nice if someone understood it.

May I offer you another perspective?

Sure.

I do need people to buy your art.

I’m sorry.

There’s one collector left.

Go talk to him.

You know, maybe my work is stronger

if I let it speak for itself…

Go!

Sure thing.

Uh, excuse me.

Oh, thank you.

Hi.

Actually, no.

S-Sorry, I’m not the…

(song changes)

ANDREA: Aren.

Does the last collector here think you’re a waiter?

Okay.

(sighs) I’m canceling your solo show next month.

No, no. I already bought the materials.

I…

I spent $3,000 on yarn.

ANDREA: That may be, but if you can’t stick up for your work,

I can’t do it for you.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(keypad beeping)

(withdraws card)

(footsteps approaching)

(sighs)

(ATM alarm beeps)

Can you, can you help me?

The machine’s being a dick. (chuckles)

Um…

Yeah, okay. Sure.

What do you need?

Can you get cash for me?

My PIN is 310… -No, no, you shouldn’t tell me your PIN.

…555-0164. (chuckles)

Actually, I think that might be a phone number.

Hold on. (chuckles)

Uh…

Where… Where’s my card?

It’s in the machine.

Oh, my God. Where’s my…

Brad?

Someone stole my debit card.

AREN: It’s-it’s still in the AT…

Help!

No, no, no, no!

Dude, dude! No, no, no.

Whoa.

No. -Dude, dude! You have headshots in the morning.

He just stole her purse, man!

RYAN: Look, she’s got her purse.

BRAD: But it was right there.

I’m sorry to bother y’all, but…

did one of y’all lose an earring?

Oh, my God, yes!

ROGER: I saw it on my way over to meet my friend here.

And let me just say, I know it ain’t his.

Oh, my God, thank you.

I would’ve been wearing one earring like a freakin’ pirate.

(laughs)

By any chance, are you all going to get some food?

Yeah.

There’s a barbecue spot that just opened on La Brea.

My cousin runs it.

They got a killer review in the LA Weekly.

I don’t know anything about that.

All I know is they pull pork just like my grandma used to.

I love pork.

You tell them Roger sent you,

and they’ll bring out the good stuff. -Thanks, man.

Hey, uh…

no hard feelings, man.

AREN: Yeah, no. Yeah.

(group chattering, laughing)

(exhales sharply)

You good?

Yeah, I c-I could’ve sworn that I had her bag.

Let’s get off the street.

ROGER: You know, these white folks looking at you crazy,

that doesn’t bother you?

AREN: It’s no big deal.

It’s a goddamn menace.

It’s-it’s annoying.

People looking at me like I’m…

whatever exactly they think that I am.

But, you know, it-it’s not like it happens every day.

So you saying people don’t look at you

like that every day?

Well, that happens every day,

you know, if I go outside or whatever,

but it doesn’t escalate every day

is what I-is what I’m saying.

Is that so?

I’m not living in fear.

I mean, is there fear?

Yeah.

Am I living in it?

No?

What?

You were just explaining how none of this affects you.

(sighs): I just, uh…

try not to think about it, I guess.

Look, I don’t want to waste your time, Aren,

but I saw you at the gallery.

Right, yeah. You were at the bar.

And I followed you because I think you’re very talented.

My work?

Uh, you mean the yarn thing?

No, that didn’t make no kind of sense.

But you?

You I get, and I want to take you to a job interview.

Oh, no, I don’t know anything about bartending.

Second job. You need money, right?

I need the yarn store to change its return policy. (chuckles)

Can it do that?

Yeah.

What?

I mean, it pays good.

What is it exactly?

Officially, it’s a client services firm,

but unofficially, we saving the damn world.

I don’t really understand.

It’s easier to show you.

Here.

Now?

Yeah.

Okay. -You got any medical conditions?

Heart disease? Eczema?

What?

N-No. Why would that…

(whoosh)

(whoosh)

What? Hmm?

This way.

Where are we?

D-Did I just black out?

I moved us a little.

You moved-What?

(entry bell jingles)

Hey, yo, wait, wait.

Hey, Roger.

(sportscast playing over radio)

How y’all doing?

♪ ♪

The hell is going on?!

Now, I’m probably supposed to start slower with all of this,

but there’s a recruiting class starting right now,

and we got to get you in it.

Recruiting for what?

(door slams shut)

Welcome…

to the American Society of Magical Negroes.

Over the next few days, we’ll introduce you to our work

and determine if any of you are fit for membership.

Now, since every education starts with the classics,

let’s take a look at

some of our most accomplished predecessors.

James Crampton, Savannah, 1923.

Watch his approach to the work.

(fingers snap)

(rattling)

(old-time jazz song playing faintly)

(exhales sharply)

Well, that’s a peculiar shot, suh.

Where’d you come from?

Oh, I was just passing through, suh.

Or should I say Mr. Avery?

Hey.

How’d you know my name?

(laughs): Well…

everybody in the state of Georgia who like billiards

knows Beauregard Avery.

Is it true that you once snapped your cue on the break

then ran the table with one of the splinters?

BEAU: I haven’t played since… the war.

You done lost your stroke.

Excuse me?

Uh, billiard stroke, suh.

You know, they say a man’s grip on his cue…

is like his grip on life.

Let me see how you holding it.

♪ ♪

Now, see, you thinking ’bout whether you gon’ miss.

Maybe you missed a little bit in your life.

But you can’t think on that now.

Now you gots to just close your eyes

and get your stroke back.

(James chuckles)

Not bad, Mr. Avery.

Not bad.

Now, obviously, you’ll be using a more contemporary dialect

and a lot of other innovations we’ve made since Jim’s time.

But he was a master of the fundamentals.

So, what did you notice about Jim’s approach to the work?

He doesn’t make it about himself.

It’s always about the client.

Client service first.

(sparkle)

What else?

He’s really friendly.

That’s crucial.

Anything else?

He’s wearing suspenders.

Okay. Let’s take a look at another one.

Marcus Dunham, 1955.

GUARD (on-screen): Dead man walking!

This isn’t right, Marcus.

Well, boss, it ain’t about the life leaving this world.

It’s about the life coming into it.

What do you mean?

I know that you and the missus

been having trouble making life.

I’m just barely scraping by in this job,

so it’s hard to go home and feel like a man.

Now, you listen here, boss.

Who snuck me that harmonica

so I could speak my soul fore I go?

I did, but…

That took courage.

That was done by a man.

So when Mrs. Bossman look at you tonight,

know that she looking at

the greatest man in Kennebec County.

(magical whoosh)

(breath trembles)

(harmonica playing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”)

GABBARD: What about this one?

Anybody else?

The spiritual was a nice touch.

Perceived authenticity.

Your interests and hobbies have to be authentically Black

as understood by the culture.

We’re showing the client the parts of ourselves

that make them feel good.

And nothing more.

(water running)

Nope! Nope!

(Aren groans)

Mm-mm.

♪ ♪

FEMALE OPERATOR: No, I’m sorry.

You can’t conjure yourself a steak dinner.

Magic only works in the service of clients.

So if he’s dieting, you’re dieting.

MALE OPERATOR: Mm-hmm. Uh, right.

If she knows that much, you’ll have to do a memory spell.

FEMALE OPERATOR: Mind if I take control

of your powers remotely?

Anything medical requires physical touch.

(chuckles) Even if he’s sweaty, yes.

No, that’s me controlling your powers.

KWAME: This is nice. Yeah.

JEREL: I like it.

Not too tight?

KWAME: Not too tight, no.

JEREL: Cause it’s got to be nostalgic,

but it can’t be too sharecropper.

Oh, no, of course not.

We’re not doing Roots.

(pen writing)

♪ ♪

♪ Like a vice grip on my heart… ♪

How goes?

It’s… it’s really interesting.

It’s, um–

You know, the name needs a little updating,

maybe like “Magical Black People” or–

I guess that doesn’t have the same ring, but, uh…

What are you trying to say?

I’m not sure this is for me.

♪ ♪

It really has nothing to do with you,

and-and I’m sure the work makes a ton of sense for you guys.

It just seems, you know, for my personal taste…

It’s a little, um…

Please take me home.

You ain’t going home.

(gasps)

(birds chirping)

Holy shit.

It’s bigger than you.

We’ve been around since before this was…

Is this…?

Monticello.

What?

Yeah.

Secret wing.

(whimpers): Oh, okay.

The truth is, Aren…

I’m in Virginia?

…you’ve got talent.

Sorry, the building is gone.

Yeah.

And talent like yours

can do more to help Black people than a hundred marches.

How?

It’s easier if I show you.

No, no, no. Last time you said that…

(groans, pants)

Aren, what’s the most dangerous animal on the planet?

Sharks.

White people.

When are white people most dangerous?

When they’re teamed up with sharks.

When they feel uncomfortable.

Okay, were sharks a part of it or…

White people feeling uncomfortable

precedes a lot of bad stuff for us.

White people move into a neighborhood,

they feel uncomfortable: gentrification.

Okay.

White cop sees a Black man,

feels uncomfortable: another shooting.

Was a time when all you had to do was look at a white man

and make him uncomfortable.

That was pretty much it for you.

Yeah, I get that. I’m just not the…

For some of us, the last thing we see in this world

is an uncomfortable white man.

But I don’t blame white people for that.

I blame their discomfort.

That’s why we here

at the American Society of Magical Negroes

fight white discomfort every damn day.

We are the vanguard of white relaxation.

Black knights making sure

that they don’t take it out on a brother.

Because the happier they are, the safer we are.

Wow.

(beeping and humming in distance)

You see that cop over there?

Far as we know, he may be

the next one to shoot an unarmed Black man.

AREN: Him?

I didn’t bring you here

for sharks, Aren.

I brought you here for this.

GABBARD: We are constantly monitoring

the happiness of every white person in America.

And when one gets too unhappy…

…they become a client.

(distant voices clamoring)

ROGER: Excuse me, Officer?

GABBARD: But they won’t know they’re a client.

So you’ll use

a white tears meter

(bell dings)

to get a reading of their distress levels.

(beeping, whirring)

And it will also let you know

when their distress

has returned to acceptable white person levels.

(Officer Miller sighs)

Man, I looked in the mirror this morning,

I swear to God,

I look more like my father than I look like myself.

Well, it’s like my grandmama always used to tell me.

There’s only two fighters you can’t beat:

Joe Louis and Father Time.

MILLER: I just want to know I still have it.

You know?

We’re thinking about going to a club tonight.

Like…

from music videos?

Really exclusive.

He and I can get in.

I mean, if you can…

maybe you’re not as far gone as you think.

I want to do that.

(lively chatter)

(upbeat music playing)

ROGER: Look, Aren,

this is a one-night job.

Nice, easy client like we use in trainings or on holiday.

But don’t let that fool you.

Black lives are depending on this.

Look, Roger, for me, I don’t think

that keeping white people happy is as big a deal

as you’re saying it is.

Oh, yeah?

Why are you so nice?

Because I’m friendly.

Because white people will kill you.

Okay. (laughs)

And I think you recognize this in some way,

and now you’re trying to get out in front of it.

Roger, if I were hyperaware of white people, I would know.

Oh, yeah?

Yeah.

Do you remember that white guy that just passed us?

Yeah.

You’re blocking his way.

I’m so sorry. I…

That’s not nice.

Let’s try a little experiment.

I want you to walk in that crowd.

Why?

Well, it shouldn’t be a big deal to you

since you so good with white people.

My mom’s white. I grew up with white people.

And I’m sure that didn’t mess you up at all.

So, I don’t need to go.

You scared?

No.

Then go.

I-I don’t want to go.

You’re scared.

Okay, you know, fine.

I’ll go.

For you.

Thank you.

(chatter and music fade)

(disconcerting, abstract sounds)

(beeping, whirring)

(disconcerting sounds continue)

I know you can feel their discomfort, Aren.

It’s the loudest thing in every room you walk into.

Probably has been your whole life.

What did you do to make them look at you that way?

And what are they going to do to you next?

White discomfort is your nemesis, Aren.

Stop running from it and start listening to it.

MILLER: Hey, hey.

(chatter and music resume)

What’s up, fellas?

Oh, man.

This place looks awesome.

There’s no way I’m getting in.

Have you seen me?

Give it a shot.

It’s not happening.

(sighs) It was stupid to even come here.

Ah! Stupid.

What was I thinking?

God, this is the outfit that I pick.

I’m like, “Oh, I’m gonna go to the club.

Let’s get my club outfit out of the closet.”

I bought new shoes…

Don’t look at me, Aren.

Look at him.

(Miller continues ranting)

Only him.

Put everything out of your mind

and focus on his pale-ass feelings.

GABBARD: As a member of the Society,

there’s no more making sure your hands are visible

just in case

or wondering if they’re gonna call the cops on you

for doing totally normal things.

Now you’ll know.

You’ll know exactly how distressed they are

and how to soothe them,

so you won’t have to be afraid.

(bell dings)

(continues ranting)

(beeping, whirring)

(continues indistinctly)

I see him.

ROGER: Then go and comfort him.

(bell dings)

They call me a pencil-pushing nerd.

Hey.

Rules are important.

Listen.

Doesn’t matter how they look at you.

It matters how you look at you.

Yeah.

You’re right.

Hey. Can we get in?

(woman laughs)

(magical jingling)

Actually, yeah.

(chuckles): Yes.

Guys, thank you.

Now, let’s do this.

What did I just do?

You made your world a safer place.

I want to do that again.

It’s your job.

♪ ♪

GABBARD: Ladies and gentlemen,

the president of the American Society of Magical Negroes,

Dede Booker.

(applause)

(triumphant music playing)

(sharp gust of wind)

(music swelling)

(music stops abruptly)

Do we seem like gods to you, Aren?

Uh…

Flattering but untruthful.

In reality, we are only as mighty as we are united.

You see, Aren, our powers are collective.

If any member uses magic selfishly,

fails to put their client first,

all our powers fail, and we cannot fail.

Every year of our existence,

the life expectancy of Black Americans has risen,

and members of our society live five years past that,

which brings us on par with…

…white nonsmokers.

And the privilege and responsibility

was upheld by Rosie… the Riveter’s nanny

and Crispus Attucks.

He really took one for the team.

And we can’t forget Nancy Green and her trademark syrup

that funds our work today.

So, understanding this noble burden,

will you join?

Yes.

Well, I officially welcome you

to the American Society of Magical Negroes.

♪ ♪

(sighs, chuckles)

(ringing)

(ringing stops)

You ready?

Oh, wow.

Um…

Yeah.

♪ ♪

Thanks.

Thank you.

(quiet chatter)

(ringing)

(ringing continues)

(ringing stops)

Hello?

Why aren’t you here yet?

Uh, yeah, I just, uh, I needed a second.

I have to brief you on your first client.

Also, why am I looking at a table?

Okay, I’ll be right in and we can talk.

I’m sorry. Oh, I’m so sorry.

(sighs) It’s okay.

I wasn’t looking and…

It’s okay. It’s fine.

Sorry. -You’re fine. Don’t worry about it.

Can I buy you a new one?

Uh, yeah. Okay, sure.

That’s-that’s nice of you.

Okay.

(drink pouring)

(quiet chatter)

Oh, my God, I was looking for coffee.

I was looking to make sure that I didn’t spill coffee on you.

Yeah, no, I wouldn’t…

And I realize that totally

looked like I was checking you out.

I was not checking you out. I wouldn’t do that.

Yeah, okay.

I-I was not doing that. I promise.

Okay.

I would. I would do that if it was, like, uh–

You’re beautiful, and I-I would…

In a checkout-appropriate situation, I would do that.

Well, what would be a… a situation

where it’s appropriate to check me out?

No, like a date or a…

betrothal or-I don’t know what I’m saying.

It’s-I was really just looking for coffee.

It’s okay.

Thank you. Sorry.

I don’t… I don’t believe you.

You don’t believe me? Why?

No. You just…

You just said that you weren’t checking me out,

and then you said I was pretty.

So how would you decide that I was pretty?

There’s a difference, there’s a difference between

noticing how someone looks and, like… -Okay. Okay.

…skeevily, like, looking them up and down.

Okay, thanks for letting me know.

And I didn’t say that you were pretty actually.

I didn’t say that.

You did.

I just heard what you said.

No.

No, I said that you were beautiful.

Okay.

Okay.

Yeah. No, I…

Okay, I believe you.

Yeah?

Yeah.

It’s a very nice thing to do.

Not check you out?

No, check me for coffee stains.

That’s…

That’s a very sweet thing to do.

Well, I’m very nice. It’s-it’s, like, a flaw.

Yeah? Says who?

Oh, thanks. I didn’t even check myself.

Yeah, am I good?

Hmm?

Am I coffee-free?

Oh, I don’t know. I was just looking at that ass.

Wow.

Terrible. (chuckles)

Yeah, you like that?

(laughing)

I’m sorry.

Uh…

(pocket watch ringing)

Uh…

I’m s-I have to go.

I’m so sorry.

Oh.

AREN: Sorry.

ROGER: Your first client is a Jason Mundt.

You’ll be working with him in graphic design,

where we felt your background in yarn and shit

will come in handy.

Jason works at MeetBox,

the most influential social media platform in the world.

Millions of white people see his designs every day

as they post and like and do whatever else they do on there.

You will be a deckhand.

That’s one level below a boatswain.

Come again?

Spelled “boat” “swain.”

Yeah, but are we at sea?

Well, they felt normal job titles

were a bit too corporate.

Okay.

His meter jumped dangerously high Tuesday 4:00 p.m.

He was so upset we considered sending in

a team of rapid response Negroes,

but they were all my age

and really didn’t understand what MeetBox did.

So his morale is still far too low.

Your job is to figure out what caused the jump

and identify what he wants.

MASTERSON: There’s a lot of research

that if you spend less time working,

you’re actually more productive.

And that is why we’ve got snacks, we’ve got games,

we’ve got cots if you want to take a nap.

Oh, that’s great. -Yeah, we also have a laundry service.

We’ve got a car wash.

You know, basically you could just sleep here.

Do a lot of people sleep here? You keep saying…

Oh, no. No, no.

Okay, cool.

Although I could use a nap.

(laughing)

(laughing): I’m fine.

(chuckles)

This is Jason.

You’re gonna work together a lot. -Hey.

Hey.

MASTERSON: No, darn it.

Um, I was hoping there was a station right next to him,

but there’s not, so why don’t you come downstairs with me.

(thump)

(magical jingling)

Oh, is this one spoken for?

Hmm?

No.

Uh, why don’t you just settle in.

Great.

Looks like we’re neighbors.

Yeah, I-I guess so.

You like games?

JASON: Guard-guard it. Guard your goal.

You better guard it.

AREN: Okay. I’m-I’m trying.

You better guard it. I’m close. I’m close!

(magical jingling)

Oh!

Okay.

Damn.

Yes.

The streak is real.

Got me again.

Three in a row.

Whew.

You practice this, don’t you?

JASON: Yeah, I got one of these at home.

Lizzie.

Uh, hey.

Hey.

I…

I… I-I… I just started working here.

That’s cool. Oh, my God. I-I’ve worked here for a while.

That-that makes sense why you’re here. -Yeah.

(chuckles)

And I’m…

You guys know each other?

No. We just met.

No, I mean, like, we–

I’m sorry. No, you go ahead.

Sorry. No, uh, please.

Uh, I’m Aren, by the way.

I’m Lizzie.

Nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you.

Um, did you get my notes?

No, no, I had to… go to this, like, HR training and…

That’s fine, but we should get it done tonight

’cause then Masterson might actually go home,

which at this point is kind of a human rights thing.

JASON (chuckles): Right. Yeah, no.

No, yeah, I’ll get it.

Thank you.

LIZZIE: It was nice to meet you officially.

Yeah, it’s nice to meet you.

So, I’ll see you around.

See ya.

So, uh, what’s her story?

Lizzie?

She’s kind of my work wife.

(bell dings)

(beeping, whirring)

You okay?

I don’t know, man.

Like… (sighs) I can’t get this layout to work.

Hmm.

What?

Your stroke is a little hesitant.

I’m sorry?

Your keystroke.

Oh.

I mean, yeah.

Yeah, I’ve-I don’t know what’s going on.

I just-Something’s off.

Like, I, uh…

Yeah, you know, it’s like the saying goes.

A man’s grip on his…

keyboard is like his grip on life.

Who said that?

Rosa Parks.

Really? When… was that…

Yeah, my point is,

something’s going on somewhere else in your life

can show up in your work.

Hmm. -But then again, you’re the boatswain.

What do I know?

No. No, you’re right, man.

Something’s definitely off.

I just feel…

Feel like what?

Shaky.

Mm.

Like, I’m just not…

You know, like, when you’re trying to do something,

but you lost your keys and you’re like,

“I’m trying to focus, but where are my keys,

where are my keys, where are my keys?” -Ah, I feel that.

So, that is not me.

Like, I always know where my keys are.

They’re in a bowl by the door.

Okay.

He’s a perfectly fine designer, but he’s, like,

totally convinced that he’s on the fast track.

Great. What else?

He responds more to

’90s hip-hop slang than Uncle Remus.

What about his Want?

I mean, those are all great observations,

but we need to find out what he’s missing.

Honestly, I’m not sure.

You know, best I can tell is that, for some reason,

his meter jumped when his last project launched.

Is he close to anyone at work?

He has a work wife.

So, spend some time with her.

Get some intel.

With her? Yeah.

Yeah, I could do that.

♪ ♪

It’s Lizzie, right?

(chatter continues indistinctly)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

AREN: It’s really good! (laughs)

LIZZIE: It’s a shambles. It’s terrible.

I feel like if I squint, I can totally see

the Chrysler Building.

Oh.

It’s supposed to be the Empire State Building.

That’s what I said,

the Empire State Building.

That’s not what you said.

Yes, it is. You didn’t hear me. -No.

Wow.

What?

There.

You added jumpers?

(laughs): No, no.

They’re, like…

They’re, like, a couple.

You know, in the movies.

Oh.

That’s really sweet.

Hey. Uh, nice. Chrysler Building.

Hell yeah.

Masterson wants you.

Okay.

I will see you, gents.

AREN: All right.

Watch them for me.

You got it.

Good luck.

LIZZIE: See you, guys. Bye.

Yo, who took my tugboat?

(sighs): Okay.

Wow.

She’s great.

Yeah, she’s cool.

Are you kidding?

Come on, man.

She’s-she’s smart and funny and she’s–

Have you seen her work?

She’s, like, a ridiculous designer.

Yeah. -She’s, like, the best designer here.

Yeah, she’s definitely the golden child.

(beeping, whirring)

You know, th-they’re actually saying that

about you, too, around the office.

I hear that all the time about

how amazing of a designer you are.

Thanks, man.

Yeah, y-you guys are completely different.

You’re-you’re actually–

You-you work really well together.

You think?

Yeah.

It’s like you have such talent, she has such talent.

It’s like, it’s like a power couple.

Work-wise, you know.

(news theme playing)

MeetBox is under fire,

as new complaints emerge its facial recognition technology

fails to identify Black people.

Critics say a lack of diversity on the engineering team

may have contributed to the issue.

And with public pressure growing,

MeetBox founder Mick Morton has promised

sweeping internal changes.

(club remix of a sea shanty playing)

(song ends)

Ahoy. -Ahoy.

Ahoy.

(light laughter)

When I dropped out of Harvard

to build MeetBox in my parents’ garage,

I remember thinking,

“I hope they don’t pull the car in.”

(laughter)

I also remember thinking

MeetBox had to be a platform for everybody.

Now, in the next few days, you’re gonna hear

the media claim that we have failed at that.

You’re gonna hear outlandish accusations.

“Mick’s biased.

“Mick’s a racist.

Mick hates the entire nation of Ghana.”

That’s not me.

It’s not who we are.

We are the same company that, last quarter alone,

partnered with 22 Black-owned vendors.

We are the same company that,

during the George Floyd protests,

suspended operations for 12 hours.

We’re the same company

whose flagship office has a world cuisine station

dedicated to the food of the Caribbean

and occasionally Africa.

It’s diverse, it’s different, it’s yummy.

We like it.

That’s who we are.

(applause)

But to make it crystal clear who we are,

I am thrilled to announce that in the next 30 days,

we are relaunching the MeetBox brand.

At a company-wide presentation,

our top design team will pitch a MeetBox makeover.

We’re gonna have a new logo,

a new slogan and a new commitment

to the exact same values that got us here.

He’s incredible.

Hmm.

So that’s Jason’s Want: to be like Mick.

Mick’s a CEO.

That makes Jason a five-, ten-year client.

And those are different.

Less magic, more listening.

Yeah, it’s actually fun and weirdly relaxing.

It’s like being a secret agent with none of the danger.

(magical jingling)

♪ ♪

So, uh, I actually had a question for you

about Jason’s work wife.

Aren, just ask the girl out.

Can I?

We’re not monks, Aren.

You’re just scared to ask her.

I’m getting to it, all right?

When?

Tomorrow.

(Roger laughing)

ROGER: Okay.

Dude.

Whoa.

Thank you.

You’re welcome.

Seriously, man.

It was like an epiphany.

I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.

Sorry, what-what are we talking about?

Lizzie.

What?

Don’t play dumb, man.

I know what you were doing, going on about her.

You were trying to… you were trying to set us up.

No. No, no, no. That’s not what I was doing.

I was…

It’s okay. It’s cool.

I’m grateful because you got me thinking,

“Why haven’t we gotten together?”

And then it hit me.

I’m into Lizzie.

Hey, man, you were, um,

you were pretty focused on being like Mick.

I am.

You want both things?

I do.

Isn’t that cool?

Yeah.

Clarity is dope, man.

(stammers) Right.

He wants both things?

Yeah, can he even do that?

Yes, but a Double Want is not ideal for your first client.

Okay, great, well, then I’m just gonna focus on work

and let him deal with his love life.

You know, the company’s about to do the big rebrand,

and so I feel like…

No.

You’re going to concentrate on both things at once.

And, Aren, I hope I don’t have to tell you this,

but you cannot have a romantic relationship with Lizzie now.

Is that going to be a problem?

Because if you don’t put Jason first,

everyone’s magic will fail.

I was hoping that was, like, a team-building thing.

We’re all in this together now.

So you have to set up Lizzie and Jason,

and I have to drive around this crotchety old white lady.

Oh. Lizzie texted me.

What should I say?

Let’s start with what she said. -Okay, she said,

“Can I get that timeline, please?”

What do you think it means?

Hey. You two talking about me? (clicks tongue)

Hey.

What’s up? Hey.

Oh, my-Wait, are you?

Yeah, actually, we were.

We were just, uh, wondering if you wanted to get a drink

with us after work, right?

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Oh.

Okay, yeah. That sounds great.

Um, as long as Jason gets me that timeline.

Yeah, it’s-Yeah, it’s chill.

Okay, great. Let me know about drinks.

AREN: All right.

(Jason sighs)

(chuckles): Thank you.

Yeah, you’re welcome.

Geez. -I’ll just, uh, I’ll make up an excuse

last minute, and then you guys are all set. -What?

All right?

No, no. No, no, no, no.

You… You’re coming.

Why?

Did you just see me?

“It’s chill”?

Okay.

I’ve never said “chill.”

All right, yeah, okay, fine.

I’ll come for one drink, all right?

Should I send the timeline?

Yeah, send it now.

Send it? -You should probably send it now.

AREN: So Jason and I worked on it for a week,

and then… -Yeah, and then… and then Masterson

fell asleep right in front of me.

(laughing): Oh, my God.

(laughing)

That’s pretty funny.

Your stories are getting better.

It was good, right?

Yeah, it’s good.

I’m getting funnier.

You’re making my job easier.

Maybe. (laughing)

Yeah.

Should we do another round?

Should we do one more?

Yeah. -Yeah.

Yeah, let’s do it.

Yeah? Okay.

No, I got it.

You got it?

All right, thank you.

Thank you.

ANCHOR (over TV): …country music superstar.

In other news, the fallout from

MeetBox’s facial recognition scandal continues.

The technology required

to access the platform has prevented

the entire nation of Ghana from logging on

for several days.

Well, on the one hand,

it’s been great for my productivity at work.

But on the other hand, it was quite racist.

ANCHOR: The growing outcry made its way to social media,

where the hashtag “Ghanagate” has been trending…

I’m so sick of this, this whole facial recognition thing.

God, I know.

It was a mistake.

Oh, no, I meant, like, I’m just so sick of thinking about

how we all work for these people who are responsible.

So what? So everybody who was on that team is a bad person?

(beeping, whirring)

I didn’t say that. Um…

Wait, did you-Was that your last project?

Uh, yeah, yeah.

And we were doing our best, you know, and…

I’m-I’m sorry. I forgot that you were on that.

No, it’s… I don’t care.

AREN: Yeah.

I was just blowing off steam about…

People are being really sensitive right now.

You know, it’s a hot-button issue

right now.

Yeah.

That’s totally what I was commenting on.

Right.

You’re not a bad person.

Oh, not at all.

Right. Right. Yeah, no.

I’m sorry.

No, it’s fine, it’s fine.

But, yeah, thank you.

You’re good.

And, look, I mean, would it have helped

to have people of color on the team?

Maybe. Yeah.

But…

you know, it was a really competitive project,

and no people like you made it,

so I don’t know what they want me to do.

I think, uh, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it.

Yeah. Exactly.

That’s the main thing.

Yeah.

Right.

And I’m not.

Like, I thought about it for a few minutes

I’m moving on.

Cause you can’t-you cannot slow down

and listen to the haters and…

(newscast playing quietly over radio)

(Lizzie sighs)

What?

No, I should’ve said something.

You did.

You-you said exactly what I was thinking

about the whole scandal.

Yeah, and then

Jason got all guilty, and I just, like, completely bailed.

(groans) I’m so stupid.

No, don’t… it’s…

You were trying to make him feel better, you know.

We both were.

Yeah, well, now I feel worse.

I mean, don’t you?

It’s okay to… pick your battles.

That’s the thing. I feel like I’m not really picking.

It just feels like this reflex.

Okay, that doesn’t make sense.

No, actually that makes perfect sense.

It’s like when… when someone sneezes,

how you say “Bless you” without even thinking.

Only then you look up afterwards,

and you’re like, “What did I… What did I just bless?”

Yeah.

Right.

Yeah.

I don’t know.

It’s-it’s one thing to not stand up for myself,

but then when I-I look over and I see

that you’re uncomfortable, too, it’s just…

I should’ve said something.

Thank you… for saying that.

That’s-that’s really…

That’s really nice.

I don’t have a lot of people

that stick up for me, so…

Well, I didn’t stick up for you.

I just thought about it.

JASON: Well, Lizzie pulled me aside this morning

and was rehashing our conversation at the bar,

and apparently I upset her.

Wait, what?

I know.

But you weren’t upset, right?

No, no.

Good.

Wow.

Right?

Cause I obviously care very deeply

about this stuff, and I take it really seriously, but…

Honestly, I didn’t even know she was, like, ethnic at first.

So, like, don’t come at me when you’re…

you’re me.

You know?

You gonna serve?

Uh, yeah. Sorry.

(clears throat)

Um, are you and Lizzie good, though?

Oh, yeah. I mean, she was basically

flirting with me by the end of it.

Oh, yeah?

Yeah, she does this thing where she, like,

touches my arm and…

Easy.

Sorry.

It’s, uh…

You got any more balls?

Yeah, I got one.

Okay.

GABBARD: Our society began

as an informal commitment

amongst Monticello slaves

to help each other avoid harsh punishment.

(quietly): Now that I can see white discomfort everywhere,

I’m starting to realize

all of this stuff that it does to me.

Like, I apologize all the time.

You really should hear this.

Oh, sorry.

See?

And you were so right about

how I’ve been aware of this my whole life.

Like, I was never really able to explain my sculpture before,

but I-I think it’s about…

Roger?

(sighs)

R-Roger?

Am I making sense?

You haven’t been making sense for quite some time.

Sorry.

Lizzie, your…

your work on the logo has been just…

just great.

Aw.

I mean, it was a team effort. I…

Well, I know that you did all the heavy lifting, so…

I do.

Thank you.

Yeah.

Aw.

I just want you to know how great you are.

Thank you. Thank you.

Yeah.

It’s just, um…

our team is gonna be pitching the logo to Mick himself.

Mm-hmm.

And I’m gonna ask…

I’m gonna ask Jason to do it.

But it’s…

I’m sorry, that’s my, um, design, though, you know.

No, I know.

Uh, Jason’s just better in a room, and–

He’s great in a room.

Um, is he?

He’s so charismatic and…

He’s loud and he’s…

Well, it’s a loud… company, Lizzie.

Sorry, I just feel like I’ve been, I’ve been asking you

for something like this for a long time. -Mm-hmm. Sure.

And we… we talked about this in my review. -Sure.

This particular design means a lot to me, and…

Okay, well, I’m up for Rear Admiral this year.

No, Lizzie, Rear Admiral.

Okay, yeah, um…

And we should just really

support each other right now.

Yeah, so…

I heard about that.

That’s great.

It’s a big presentation,

and Jason’s just a better fit for this audience.

(pats leg)

You’ll be fine.

No, that’s okay. Um…

(phone chiming)

Oh, Masterson’s calling me in.

I’ll meet you and Lizzie at the bar.

All right.

Hey.

I’m sorry, I-I actually-I have to head home.

What’s wrong?

Nothing’s wrong.

You okay?

Yeah.

Oh.

Shit, um…

Thank you.

Look, um, we don’t have to go to the bar.

We can just walk in that direction and talk.

Sorry, I’m just-I’m not super, uh, fun right now.

It’s okay.

No, I’m really, uh…

I’m no fun.

I think, uh, this is fun enough for the both of us.

Oh, my God.

Is this a ring that says “So swag”?

Okay, you love that.

It’s very fun.

That was a gag gift.

So…

It’s almost too fun.

-“So swag.”

Okay.

Um…

A short, un-fun walk?

All right.

Completely joyless.

LIZZIE: It’s my job to support Jason,

in more ways than you can imagine,

but, I mean, I don’t know.

I think I’m a good designer also.

AREN: You’re the best of us.

(stammers) I mean, I don’t,

I don’t know if I’m the best, but, like… -No, you are.

I went to RISD with some great designers,

and you’re killing it.

Thank you.

I mean that.

That means a lot.

Thank you. I…

Like, if I’m being honest, I kind of… (sighs)

I kind of think that, too.

And that’s, like, this whole thing for me.

Like, it’s taken me years to just be able to say, like,

you know, “I think, like, I, as a person,

do not suck fundamentally.”

And it’s…

(sighs) This place is supposed to be a meritocracy, so…

Mick? Like, Mick is a free market psychopath.

If there was a way to promote with blood sport,

oh, my God, he’d be throwing us in the pit,

like, left and right.

(laughs)

And I’m just saying, “Put me in the pit.

Like, I’m there.”

Yeah.

“I’m committed. I’m-I’m good.”

Can I just say, you’re kind of a badass…

right now.

I mean, at all times,

but specifically right now…

Thank you.

…because I feel like-I keep thinking this

because, uh, with me, when I lose an opportunity,

I’m like, “Yeah, that’s right. That makes sense.

And goodbye and thank you so much.”

And you’re-right now, you’re, like… -Wait.

This…

I don’t even have the word for it. -But why?

That how much I don’t have it.

You went to RISD. I mean…

That’s different.

No, it’s not at all.

That’s like the Harvard of finger painting.

That’s how they sell it. It’s on all the pamphlets.

Exactly. I mean, it’s…

(laughs)

Yeah, it’s amazing to even get in there.

What did you study?

Sculpture.

You did?

Mm-hmm.

You still do it?

No. Not really, um, anymore.

I, uh…

I used to love it, but it’s sort of similar

to what you were saying.

What?

I couldn’t decide if I was, like, really good

and other people didn’t get me or if I was, like,

a lunatic making yarn sculptures.

Yarn sculptures?

I know, I know.

Sculptures with yarn?

Yeah.

Do you have pictures?

I do.

Yeah?

Um…

They don’t really work in 2D.

Oh, my God.

And they’re too small on this screen. -Are you sure?

Let me see. (laughs)

Come on!

(Aren groans)

(Lizzie chuckles)

This looks so cool.

Yeah, you don’t really get the feeling that you get in person.

Uh, okay, so if it was, like, right in front of me,

what would I be feeling?

Calm.

Quiet.

Kind of like how I imagine meditating is supposed to feel

but you can never actually pull off.

Okay, so it’s-it’s, like, relaxing?

I’m doing a terrible job of this.

Why are you making me do this?

No, you’re not.

You’re not.

(chuckles)

Yeah, um…

I think my pieces are about…

comfort.

Mm-hmm.

Not like my shoes are comfortable,

but deep social ease.

Like, I saw this Wall Street bro get mugged one time.

Uh, okay.

It’s an example.

Okay. Okay. (chuckles)

Deep social ease.

Uh, but when this guy got mugged,

he was so surprised.

Yeah, I mean, isn’t that kind of essential to a mugging?

But no, it was the way he was surprised.

It was…

Like, right before the mugging,

he was so sure that the world wasn’t gonna come for him

that it took him a super long time to realize

that he was getting mugged.

I swear to God that for a split second,

he thought the knife was a present for him.

Like, in his mind, it was more likely that a stranger

would give him a random gift…

than that they would try to hurt him.

Totally. Yeah.

And I-I want to know what that would feel like

to have that expectation of the world.

Just for a second.

Like I’m…

floating in salt water,

and I can just relax.

Well, what makes you feel like that?

Peruvian wool.

(snickers)

And…

when people are talking to me.

Like, me specifically.

Mm.

Not an idea of me but the person that I actually am.

And when does that happen?

Is it weird to say now?

(phone ringing, vibrating)

Sorry.

Hey. -JASON (over phone): You sitting down?

AREN: I was.

JASON: Dude, I get to pitch Mick

in front of the entire company, everyone.

That’s awesome, man.

Like, I knew it was coming,

and this is it, it’s here,

and I’m bringing you along with me.

And I just emailed you a temp, so you think you can, like,

work your magic like you did last time?

Yeah. You got it. No problem.

Thanks, man.

(exhales heavily)

Sorry, I’ve got to go back to work.

That’s okay. I should actually…

I should go, so…

Thanks for the walk.

Yeah, anytime.

I’ll see ya.

See ya.

(bell tolling)

(bell continues tolling)

A farm subsidy’s not welfare because farmers aren’t lazy.

(magical jingling)

You know?

(farmer mumbles)

(jingling stops abruptly)

(farmer continues mumbling)

(bell continues tolling)

And that’s why you have nothing to be embarrassed about.

(magical whoosh)

(whoosh stops abruptly)

♪ ♪

(magical whoosh)

(whoosh stops abruptly)

(bell continues tolling)

♪ ♪

(distant voices clamoring)

(Dede muttering)

(scoffs)

(tolling stops)

Normally, I would be floating above you, godlike,

with magic powered by a hundred Negroes working as one.

But today, Kyle here had to get an actual chair for me.

Why? Because someone here defied the Society.

Our powers shut down because someone here

made it about himself.

Who was it?

(crowd murmuring)

Brutus and Kyle have had to carry this thing around

like common laborers.

Brutus went to Dartmouth.

He doesn’t need this shit.

And Kyle went to…

Kyle? Baby, where’d you go again?

Cornell, ma’am.

Still technically Ivy.

Who did it?

Tonya?

Tell us of your crimes.

(sighs)

I told my client about himself.

(crowd murmuring)

Not much.

It was just like, “Hey, you may want to revisit

that foundational paper in our field.”

Was that all?

And I may have sworn at him a little.

(crowd groaning, murmuring)

He’s never read it.

He cites it, but he’s never read it.

I’ve heard enough!

I hereby ban you

from the American Society of Magical Negroes.

You will receive a mind-erasing spell

that will take away any and all recollection of your time here.

And then, Tonya,

you will receive the most severe sentence.

You will be forced to live in America…

No.

…as a…

regular Black person.

(crowd murmuring)

We’re working to get our powers up as soon as possible.

Normally, Tonya would have helped with that.

GABBARD: What a waste.

To Tonya.

She is…

was…

the smartest of us.

She’s not dead, though, right?

Probably not.

But without our standard-issue charm against hate crimes,

the worst could’ve happened.

Like she stepped out of our door

and walked straight into a Nazi.

I didn’t mean to put you off like that.

No, no, it’s…

I don’t recruit.

Usually, I don’t work with the new members like that.

Really?

Dede says I’m too stern.

What?

(chuckles)

That’s what I said. I’m likeable.

So, uh, why me?

I’ll give you a compliment.

Watching you walk through a room full of white people

is the most painful thing I’ve ever seen.

Mm, thank you.

I called Dede right away and said,

“I’m going to work with this young man myself.”

You know, uh, I just realized I never actually, uh,

thanked you for helping me out that night.

You don’t have to thank me.

Still.

You can thank me by doing a good job.

Okay.

LIZZIE: Hey.

Hi.

Is everything okay?

Yeah.

I mean, I was not okay last night,

and you were really sweet about it.

So it’s your turn.

Yeah, I’m good.

Okay.

(sighs)

JASON: I can’t believe you haven’t played this before.

AREN: Yeah, I know. It’s-it’s fun.

(gruesome game sound effects)

Oh, my God.

I know, right?

Wow.

Look, he’s, like, all burned up.

You can, like, pick up his lung. -Okay, yeah, let’s…

Hey, actually, um… I actually had a suggestion

on the Lizzie front.

JASON: Yeah, shoot.

AREN: I was thinking

that you could ask Lizzie to present with you.

Why? I mean, I do the talking, you run the deck.

What else do we need?

Well, Lizzie’s a great designer,

and, you know, it’s a nice gesture,

especially for someone that you’re into.

JASON: Yeah, but it’s not fair.

AREN: No.

You’d still have plenty of face time with Mick.

JASON: No, it’s-I mean, it’s not fair to Lizzie.

What-I-I don’t follow.

Well, I mean, if you give somebody a break

and they haven’t earned it,

you’re just setting them up to fail down the line,

so it’s not fair to them.

So you don’t think Lizzie’s earned it?

Well, I mean, Masterson did come to me, so…

Yeah, true, but it could’ve been either of you.

Could it?

Yeah.

Well, I mean, I can only speak for me, and I got it,

so I must have put in the right amount of work.

Well, what if Lizzie put in the exact same amount of work?

But she didn’t get it.

So the fact that you have it is proof that you deserve it?

Kinda.

Pick up that rapier there

and just stab them in the nose.

I mean, sure, there’s luck and talent and stuff,

but I feel like mostly people get what they work for,

and I got it, Lizzie didn’t.

But don’t other things contribute to your success?

Like what?

Like if people treat you

like you’re gonna be successful your whole life,

don’t you think that makes it easier to succeed?

Like, me specifically?

Sure.

Well, I was gonna succeed, so they would’ve been right.

Uh, but what if they treated you

like you weren’t gonna succeed?

Well, why would they? I was.

It’s a hypothetical, Jason.

Well, I would’ve been like, “Back off, haters.” Like…

Okay, but that’s a really confident attitude,

and if you were being undermined your whole life…

Well, I’m confident, so I wouldn’t let them undermine me.

But I’m saying, like, what if your confidence

isn’t actually yours,

it’s just something that you learned how to do

in response to how people have treated you?

Like, for me-and I’m not

actually sure how this happened–

but I feel like, at some point,

I got taught that other people…

Dude, pump the brakes, man.

Uh, my bad. I’m not trying…

No, pump the brakes on the Humvee.

Oh, sorry. Sorry.

Slow, slow, slow, slow, slow. Nice, nice!

Whew, I thought we were gonna overshoot it. Nice.

Whew. What were you saying?

Uh, um…

Nothing.

Holy shit, you almost died.

Yeah.

(mellow rock music playing through speaker)

(quiet chatter)

(chatter continues indistinctly)

KWAME: Were you looking for anything

specific?

Just… inspiration.

(chuckles)

Yeah.

Tough client.

Well, anytime Oscar here senses a really extreme reaction

from one of the clients, good or bad,

he starts recording to a disk.

And the full disks are archived here

so we can look back at these moments.

Usually, these are our finest work.

Like, the most recent one we caught was…

(whirring)

Huh. All right, um…

No one seems to have labeled the last one.

KWAME (recorded): And that’s why you have nothing

to be embarrassed about.

(magical whoosh, whoosh stops abruptly)

Um…

Um… (coughs, clears throat)

Excuse me.

Sure.

(knob clicks)

ROGER (recorded): I can’t wait

ROGER (recorded): to see this picture.

Nah, that, uh, that didn’t come out.

Let me take it again, okay?

You guys ready? ‘Cause this is the one.

(quiet knocking)

(old-time jazz music playing)

He was my… second client.

And she was…

Well, I mean, she was Annie.

(camera clicks)

First he fell for her, then I fell for her,

and then I did my job.

You ever regret it?

Regret is for white people.

I don’t think that’s how it works.

Well, not according to my grandma.

Oh, you’re gonna quote your wise Black grandma to me?

(laughing)

To me?

Yeah, but this is my real one.

Okay.

See, my daddy… (sighs) he used to shine shoes.

And this one day-I must have been five, six years old–

I went to town to see him.

And I was running toward him, all excited.

But before I got to him,

this white man looked down from the chair above him,

and he just spit on his head.

He spit on him.

He said something about…

my daddy needed more spit in his shine.

And I just froze.

I mean, my daddy had a temper.

So I’m saying to myself,

“Ooh!

He’s about to whoop the shit out of this white man.”

Mm.

But instead, he wiped the spit off of his head,

and he looked up at him and he smiled.

And I ran home crying, thinking about that smile.

When I finally ran into my grandmother, I told her

how ashamed I was of my daddy, and she got real still.

And you know what she said?

What?

“If your daddy come home alive today…

…he ain’t got nothing to regret.”

So have I lost some things to this work?

Some pride?

Her?

Yeah.

But I never regretted one smile.

Because I’m still here.

And so many of us ain’t.

But what do you do about the little part of you that dies

every time you smile like that?

What, you’d rather go all at once?

No, I just…

It’s just pride, Aren.

Feels like more.

Well, that’s ’cause you didn’t

let her go like I told you to do.

How’d you know that?

(chuckles)

Of course I know all about that.

I’m pretty much a wizard.

Fair enough.

You’ll get another client,

and she will fade.

AREN: Then why do you keep a picture?

ROGER: So she doesn’t.

That sounds awful.

Well, it’s better than the alternative.

If you do anything to interfere with her or your client,

you could have your memory erased.

You won’t even remember she existed.

I’m sorry, son, but this is the job.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(song ends)

Hey, Lizzie?

Hey.

Hey.

I just wanted to apologize

for being weird the other day.

No worries.

Thank you.

Yeah.

But, um, I really…

I really do want to be friends.

And I want to say that out loud to you

because I… I feel like we had a…

“We’re actually gonna be friends” night,

and then I was weird about it.

Um, yes.

Totally.

So…

friends?

Yes.

(chuckles)

Are we friends?

Of course we’re friends.

Yeah. Wait, I don’t…

Friends.

It’s formal, but…

(laughs) Yeah.

Seal the deal. All right.

Um, I’m gonna get back to work, okay?

Okay. Okay.

I’ll see you around.

Hey, Aren.

Hey, what’s up?

(chuckles)

I’m sorry, I just…

I know you just said that we had a…

uh, “We’re actually gonna be friends” kind of night,

but that’s…

…that’s not what I would call it.

What-what would you call it?

Um, we had a moment.

Didn’t we?

And I guess I just figured that you were, you were acting weird

because it was, uh, it was too soon,

um… or it was too much,

um, or because I outrank you.

(chuckles) Oh, yeah?

Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah, I could order you to do stuff.

(chuckles)

(laughs)

So am I crazy?

No.

Thank you.

We had a really lovely moment.

But?

But… I…

…just started this job,

and…

I’m sorry…

Don’t be sorry.

Um, no, I’m sorry.

I sh-shouldn’t have brought it up at work. That’s…

We’re friends.

We’re friends.

Friends.

(both laugh)

Friends.

Okay.

Okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go home,

but I’ll… I’ll see you.

Okay.

See ya around.

All right, see ya.

♪ ♪

GABBARD: There’s a tension here.

Black… but palatable.

Because they don’t want to know

how much it costs you to navigate them.

The sadness behind your eyes every time you smile.

The lump in your throat from everything you didn’t say.

We’re showing the client the parts of ourselves

that make them feel good…

…and nothing more.

♪ ♪

(ocean waves lapping gently)

(phone ringing, vibrating)

(groans)

Hi, uh… -JASON (over phone): Yo, presentation day.

Hey, let’s meet 30 before.

Also, big news on the Lizzie front.

Yeah?

Yeah, yeah.

I, uh… as soon as the presentation’s over,

I’m asking her out.

You there?

Mm-hmm.

Did you hear the part about how after the presentation

I’m asking her out?

(phone ringing, vibrating)

I’m so sorry. I-I, um…

JASON: All good.

Anyway, I got a great plan to ask her out,

but I’m gonna need your help.

What was that thing that you said last week

that made her laugh? I think it was about a…

♪ ♪

(grunts)

LIZZIE (recorded): Hi. This is Lizzie. Leave a message.

Hey, Lizzie, are you at work?

SKATER: Hey! (grunts)

I need to talk to you.

Watch where you’re going!

(phone chimes)

JASON (recorded): You close?

Don’t want to be “that boatswain,”

but, uh, you’re late.

(phone chimes)

JASON (recorded): Hey, man,

you got an ETA?

Uh, where-where you at?

(phone ringing)

(ringing stops)

(sighs)

What? LaCroix?

No, he’s not a dockworker, Tyler.

Go get the one with the fresh fruit squeezed in it.

Run!

(door opens)

(chuckles)

Mick, hi. Jason.

What an honor.

All we are really is just bags of meat, you know?

(chuckles) In a box.

(laughter)

Okay, Linda. Linda, Linda, Linda, Linda, Linda, Linda.

Is your team all set?

Yes, Mick, it’s, uh–

Of course. Of course.

That’s great.

You have a very bright future here.

(inhales deeply)

Wow, I think I just left my body.

Are we set?

Yes.

Okay.

Yeah.

♪ ♪

(crowd cheering)

Ahoy.

Thank you all so much for coming.

Or rather not coming,

because we are live streaming this to your desks.

We read a study in the Harvard Business Review

that said gathering in large groups

leads to too much fun! (chuckles)

And unions.

So we’re gonna have fun from wherever we are.

And I would like to hear you, one at a time.

First up, Los Angeles!

(crowd cheering)

Seoul!

(crowd cheering)

♪ ♪

Dude, where have you been?

The presentation is starting.

I can’t talk right now, man.

We’re about to go on.

Have you seen Lizzie?

She’ll be at the presentation. Come on.

Uh, the other day, I was bidding on

a first edition of The Fountainhead,

and I lost.

Now, those of you who know me know that I hate losing.

Okay? (chuckles)

But in the end, it was kind of exhilarating,

cause it reminded me of my drive to win.

Now, Ghana-gate…

reminded us that we have to double down

on connecting with everybody.

MICK: Design will help them find their bliss.

I don’t see Lizzie.

Just find her after.

No, it’s urgent. I’m having a moment of clarity.

Hey, hey, there’s nothing more urgent than this presentation.

Look, I’m just clicking the slides.

If I’m not back in time, you can do it on your own.

No, you have to be there.

Why?

Because you do.

I’m just pressing a button.

Do I have to spell this out for you? -Yeah, apparently.

So this whole rebrand is about diversity.

MICK: Now, without further ado,

please join me in welcoming to the stage

L.A. design team head Linda Masterson!

(crowd cheering)

MASTERSON: Thanks so much, Mick.

Well, I think it’s safe to say

that every crew is only as good as their captain.

(Mick whoops)

(crowd laughing, applauding)

(fading): And with Mick at the helm, it’s pretty clear

we’re not gonna be hitting any icebergs anytime soon.

(Masterson continues indistinctly)

(mouthing)

MASTERSON: These may not seem like MeetBox words.

They may not be carved on the hull of values.

But I would argue…

(Masterson continues speaking indistinctly)

Hey.

Hey.

I, uh…

I didn’t like that.

What?

That thing you said, I didn’t like it.

Okay.

I felt like you were saying

that I’m only here because of my race.

I didn’t like that.

What?

And I needed to say that out loud.

Whoa.

I feel crazy just blurting that out.

That’s… Wow.

Whoa.

(laughs)

Just once, I wanted to say what I thought,

no matter the consequences.

I’m not racist.

What?

I’m not racist.

Oh, no, no, no, no.

That’s not what I’m saying.

I was just trying to tell you how I felt,

which is actually pretty big for me,

cause I usually only worry about how you feel…

‘Cause I would never say anything racist.

No, I’m just talking about me.

I don’t have a racist bone in my body.

Sorry, I’m actually having a moment of real personal growth,

and so-no offense–

I don’t really care if you’re racist on a skeletal level.

Whoa, we can’t just, like, throw that shit around.

All right? It’s like a death sentence.

AREN: No, getting shot is a death sentence.

JASON: You know what I mean.

No, I don’t totally.

You did say a thing.

You said you only needed me onstage

because I’m diverse.

No.

No, I didn’t.

Yes, you did.

JASON: No, no, I said

the presentation is about diversity.

That… that’s semantics.

That’s-that’s not what happened. -I’m sorry…

I’m sorry you heard it wrong.

I-I was just there. That’s…

If what you’re saying happened,

then I’m racist, and I’m not racist,

so it couldn’t have happened how you said it happened.

So because you don’t want to feel bad,

the thing that just happened didn’t happen?

That makes it sound crazy.

That’s because it’s crazy.

Can we…

Can we just please focus up here?

And now Jason Mundt.

I don’t care if you’re racist.

Dude.

Everyone’s racist.

Aren. (chuckles)

AREN: I care that you won’t acknowledge what just happened.

JASON: I’m sorry you’re offended, okay?

AREN: I mean, how can we move forward

until we acknowledge…

I apologize. You hear me?

This is me apologizing.

…the basic facts of the situation?

Are they lovers?

(arguing continues)

I don’t think so.

I’m not asking for reparations. -I did all of it.

I’m not asking for you to apologize. -I did racism.

I did slavery.

I’m just asking for…

If I could just do this presentation,

that would be great.

I’m sorry,

did you say you did slavery?

Uh…

Like, as an institution?

AREN: How did we get there?!

I’m just, I’m just gonna…

All you had to do was listen to me and the thing that I was

saying about myself!

(chuckles nervously)

Hey, what’s happening?

For Christ’s sake…

I don’t know. He’s freaking out.

…there’s a section of the presentation called

“Diverse Experiences.” It’s a dumb title,

but it’s in there.

Okay, Mick, I’ve got this.

You couldn’t be less interested… -Um, excuse me.

Oh, you want to get in on this, Mick? -Uh, fellas?

Yeah, I think I might be able to help out with this.

Just go.

All right. Ahoy, MeetBox.

Oh, you think you understand me?

Uh, yeah.

Mick,

you don’t understand other people. -And my name is Jason.

(clears throat)

You own an island.

Right. -JASON: I’d like to get started…

No one with an island has empathy. -MASTERSON: Just stop.

It’s not possible to possess both things.

Right.

JASON: Dude, stop.

Okay, I’m so sorry.

Why are you doing this? We’re friends.

You’re not my friend.

And you don’t want to be friends,

because if we were actual friends,

you would have to talk to me and listen to me

and make space for the reality that I live in a country

that makes me feel like it wants me dead.

What?

What?

Where if I get shot today,

there is an army of people ready to explain how it was

probably my fault.

(laughs) Probably?

And I feel that every day.

Aren, the diversity section

of this whole thing is coming later. -In every glance,

in every movie that’s supposed to be uplifting.

And maybe less about death.

And that changes everything.

Because death and diversity don’t really have anything

to do with each other, so…

That changes how I walk

and how I talk and how I take up space!

Or don’t!

I got this. Okay.

It changes what risks feel reasonable

and which ones are insane.

And it’s taken me my whole life to realize that this is

a weight that I walk around with

all the time.

MASTERSON: Hi.

My name is Jason, and I…

And after this

lifelong journey of figuring out

that maybe this shit impacts everything I do…

Linda, you-you’re not Jason. You can’t do that.

…you want to turn around and act like I’m crazy

for acknowledging it. No, no, no, no.

No, no, no, no. You don’t get to put me in danger

just because you don’t want to feel like an asshole.

Young man, young man.

Be the asshole.

MICK: We have forums…

Mick, hold on a second.

Jason!

I beg your pardon?

Because the shame that you feel like

you did something wrong just by being yourself,

that is my whole life.

MICK: You know what?

You know what, everybody?

AREN: And this place…

this country…

This is MeetBox.

…has been so deeply indifferent

to whether or not I exist…

(Mick continues indistinctly)

…that on some level, I don’t think I have the right to.

And what I am saying to you

that you so steadfastly refuse to hear…

It’s the Mick way. It’s the MeetBox way.

…is fuck that!

I do!

I deserve to be here.

Not just on this stage but in this world.

And that, believe it or not, is a revelation to me.

So you want to know about my-my “diverse experience”?

I have been on this planet for 27 years,

and I just figured out this week that I deserve to be alive.

(exhales heavily)

I didn’t know that.

Me neither.

♪ ♪

Hi.

Hi. That was…

(folder drops on floor)

I’m gonna move us a little.

What?

(sharp whoosh)

So, I’m gonna go soon,

and I-I can’t explain.

Oh, my God.

But even though we might never see each other again,

I need you to know that you’re not crazy.

What we had was real.

And as long as I’ve known you, I’ve wanted to do this.

(bell tolling)

Aren?

(bell continues tolling)

(crowd murmuring)

DEDE: Aren Mbondo.

(tolling stops)

We have seen your crimes on the MeetBox stage,

crimes that have endangered everyone

and kept me at this miserable height.

What happened after you left the auditorium?

I teleported my client’s love interest to a romantic location

where I tried to kiss her.

(crowd murmuring)

In my defense, I had feelings for her first,

and he kind of colonized my crush.

(crowd murmuring)

How can you possibly justify your behavior?

I guess I’ve always felt like it’s my job

to make white people feel comfortable,

and obviously, here it literally is,

but…

it shouldn’t be.

(crowd whispering)

MAN: I get it though…

Aren,

you are hereby banished

from the American Society of Magical Negroes.

Makes sense.

(crowd murmuring quietly)

(siren wailing in distance)

You got a history of concussions?

Because technically this spell is brain damage.

I’m okay.

(Roger clears throat)

♪ ♪

Are you gonna…

Just give me a second.

Um, yeah, okay.

You know you’re not gonna be able

to take care of yourself out there?

Um… I’ll be fine.

(Roger inhales deeply)

Okay.

♪ ♪

(fizzling sound)

(fizzling sound)

Shit.

What? What’s…

I think you must have gave somebody notions.

I could really use a hand here.

I don’t think you really understand the welfare state.

What?

But it’s got to be a two-way street.

I can’t be the only one grabbing crotches around here.

You’ve got to check in on my penis as well.

(voices clamoring loudly)

But this shutdown feels different. Big.

Did I just put you out of a job? -Oh, no.

Being a magical Negro isn’t just about magic.

As long as there are fretful whites,

we will be here.

All right.

Uh… I’m gonna go.

But what you gonna do for work?

Uh…

Actually, I have an idea for a new piece.

The yarn?

You do remember nobody liked it?

Yeah, but I do.

Well, if I’m letting you out of here with your memory intact,

you better text me tonight.

(laughs): Okay, sure.

And none of that emoji shit. I need words.

I’m curious to see how you gonna make it out of all this.

Make it out of what?

You didn’t leave her in L.A.

Oh.

No.

No, no, no.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no!

LIZZIE (recorded voice mail): Aren, what is going on?

You just left me here and you just disappeared?

I’m on the…

WOMAN: Excuse me!

LIZZIE (continues): …on the Empire State Building.

What is going on?

LIZZIE: (new recorded voice mail): Um, okay, great.

So, I’m, like, on the Brooklyn Bridge now

on the way to the airport,

uh, and I guess I’m in New York.

LIZZIE: (new recorded voice mail): I, uh, landed in L.A.

Um, I’m in a car home right now.

Um, can you just-can you give me a call

and let me know that you’re okay?

Lizzie.

(panting): Hey. I’m so sorry.

I didn’t realize that when I left…

♪ ♪

(both chuckle)

I, uh…

LIZZIE: Uh-huh?

AREN: Ah. (chuckles)

LIZZIE: Hi, uh, Aren.

AREN: Um, I feel terrible about leaving you in New York.

That was not what I was planning on.

LIZZIE: Mm-hmm. So, do you have powers or…

AREN: No, right. Okay, that’s a, that’s a fair question.

I’m part of this magic society–

Or-or I was.

I just quit, so…

Good on me or…

LIZZIE: You’re kidding.

AREN: Nope.

LIZZIE: Which is such a crazy coincidence, because I’m…

I’m also a part of a magic society,

and I was about to quit.

AREN: Yeah, okay, that’s funny.

I-I deserve that.

LIZZIE: No, really.

But first I thought I would kidnap you

and leave you on the Space Needle.

AREN (laughs): No, I was… I was trying to be romantic.

(Aren groans)

LIZZIE: All right.

Just walk with me, then.

That sounds much nicer.

AREN: Okay.

LIZZIE: Maybe no more magic.

AREN: Yeah. No more magic.

LIZZIE: Oh, and you still owe me a coffee.

♪ ♪

(breezy music plays quietly over speakers)

(entry bell jingles)

Can I help you?

Oh. Okay.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

(music ends)

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