Did you see the new ABC show Blackish?
I was hesitant to watch it because I really hated the title. I thought, “Why do we have to have a show where the title depicts that Black people are kinda sorta NOT Black because we are trying to be white.
But I got it wrong. That’s not what the show is about.
I watched it anyway and actually was delighted because the show took us on a journey of what it means to live in a world where we constantly fight and claw our way to the top and somehow being Black means we must try that much harder to identity ourselves without LOSING our identify and self-worth along the way.
Having gone back to work recently, I have had a very difficult time dealing with how people have responded to me – an educated Black woman. I can’t and won’t go into much detail but I can say that it has shocked me that in this day and time we as Blacks are still fighting for respect and equality.
It surprises me that we as Black people still have to work ten times harder than our cohorts to PROVE who we are and to prove our abilities.
You would think in 2014 that there would be nothing else anyone would have to prove being black in a world dominated by the white race. It’s not 1962 anymore. We’ve marched, and clawed our way into the arms of equality and now with a Black President as the Head of State we rest on the laurels that we are a people who are free and justice has been served all across our 40 acres. Well, I thought so…
I still have my Blackish moments, having moved out of the murderous grips of seedy Philadelphia and into a rural suburb where going to the store means there is no running to the corner to pick up bread and butter but instead prepare for a day out on the town because of the several miles drive.
I get exactly what Blackish is trying to portray. And at the end of the day the show was funny and on-point with its social commentary.
I watched the premiere and believe it raised some interesting discussions and put a spotlight on those reoccurring themes that middle class black folk, like myself, share. The experiences of Black Americans is a unique one and this particular show presents some of those in a nuanced way. Maybe white viewers won’t get it or understand fully what Blacks in corporate America go through, but what I saw was authentic and spoke to my heart.
I too want my kids to have a better life, void of dealing with getting beat-up and bullied at every turn in the neighborhood because someone doesn’t like their clothes or hair or shoes. And there is no shame in my game for moving on up to the East Side of serenity if it means my children will see life much better than what I saw growing up– where corner-bars meant shoot-outs every weekend, neighborhood schools were breeding grounds for drug dealers and bullies and playgrounds were filled with glass and grass-smoking junkies.
And let’s be clear, unlike Blackish I moved on up yet STILL live in a black community. I don’t feel a need to run into the arms of white folks when you are seeking a better community for your family. There are plenty of well-to-do back communities and I live in one.
And unlike what was portrayed in Blackish, however, my kids are fully aware of their culture and there is no tussle in trying to get them to identify and understand and APPRECIATE who they are. The rites of passage scene was a little over the top, but it’s comedy. My girls are well aware of their culture and appreciate every nook, cranny and coil in their hair and appreciate their beautiful brownness.
Do Blacks get a fair shot? Not always. We still struggle with proving ourselves each and everyday. Am I sick of it? Yes God I am. But unfortunately that is the world we live in and until the mindset of White America changes, then we will continue to fight for equality and I give a fist-pound to a show like Blackish which illuminates a pressing issue and generational shifts in Black Culture. I loved Anthony Anderson in this role. He kept it real in a way where I felt like he certainly didn’t sell-out. And Lawrence Fishburn killed as the crotchety father. I loved it. We all have an uncle like that, don’t we?
ABC’s Black-ish (Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET) looks at another well-to-do African American family. But Andre “Dre” Johnson (Anthony Anderson), a successful L.A. advertising executive married to a doctor, doesn’t feel nearly so inconspicuous. “When brothers start getting a little money, things start getting a little weird,” he says in an early voiceover; he imagines a tour bus pointing out his household, “the mythical and majestic Black Family, out of their natural habitat.” (“Go ahead and wave! They’ll wave right back!”)
But the very funny pilot of black-ish is not a fish-out-of-water comedy. If anything, Dre is worried that his kids–who have never known anything but affluence, mostly white classmates and a black President–feel too comfortable and assimilated. The biggest affront comes from his son André Jr. (Marcus Scribner), who plays field hockey instead of basketball and goes by “Andy” because “I think it says I’m edgy but approachable.” “I think it says I hate my father and I play field hockey,” Dre answers.
When Andy announces that he wants a bar mitzvah, Dre decides his kids need a dose of race consciousness. His Pops (a slyly crotchety Laurence Fishburne) thinks it’s overdue; his biracial wife Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) thinks it’s an overreaction. This family dynamic is mirrored at Dre’s office, where he’s excited to get a big promotion–only to discover that it’s to Senior Vice President of the Urban Division. (“Did they just put me in charge of black stuff?”) With this, black-ish becomes something more complicated–about wanting to find that place where you’re not defined by your race, yet your culture doesn’t become irrelevant.
I look forward to the episodes ahead on Blackish and hope that White viewers take a deep look inside of themselves and examine their own prejudices, upfront and personal in primetime.
Time magazine contributed to this report.