Black-ish is Necessary. Deal With It.

We interrupt this Marital Mondays to bring you my Black-ish rant.

This past April, my daughters’ dance school was preparing for their May recital. The lobby was bustling with sequin-covered kids and parents purchasing last minute jazz shoes on their smartphones. In a cozy little nook, three Jewish girls sat complaining to their mothers about their bread cravings. They were fasting for Passover, and they made sure everyone in the small space knew about it. The 4:30pm classes ended, and a charismatic little boy (the only boy at the whole studio) walked out of hip-hop smiling. Noticing the Star of David on his necklace, the girls asked, “How can you be so happy right now?”

“I had a great class. Why?” he asked, with confusion tying his eyebrows into a knot. The girls grabbed at their stomachs moaning.

“You’re fasting for Passover, right?”

“Oh, honey, I’m not that Jewish.” he answered with a smirk as he exited the studio. It was awkward for some, funny to others, and offensive to the hungry girls in the corner.

Cultural imperialism is in the very DNA of America. Every little kid in this country wants to know who the large white dude in the red suit at the mall is. Media brainwashing is watering down the cultures of most minorities in this country. Some yellow folks want their eyelids surgically creased. I’ve met brown people who don’t know what elders in their family are saying, because they don’t speak a lick of Spanish. Our Jewish friends have a Christmas tree. Black people are certainly not exempt from this culture sapping, and that is why the show Black-ish is necessary. The show is a comedic depiction of a wealthy black family living in a white neighborhood. It is a new humorous reminder to go back to the source, remember our history, and remain in discussion about the damage being done.

I’m pro-dialogue, and Black-ish definitely has people talking about race. I’ve seen people online, who never have anything to say about racism, complaining about this show. They don’t have anything to say about freeing Palestine, but they took the Ice Bucket Challenge. They don’t discuss domestic violence unless it involves their favorite running back. Likewise, people want to go hard on this comedy show that is addressing issues, but they have “reality” shows, like Real Housewives of Atlanta and Love and Hip-Hop, that are perpetuating sooooo many horrible stereotypes saved in their DVRs. We don’t get to pick and choose when to be socially responsible. Moreover, to paraphrase my brother, Brandon Easton, if you own every season of Martin on DVD, and you’re saying this show is buffoonery, power all of your devices down and stop communicating with the rest of the world (Also Known As: You and Sheneneh need to have a few seats).

There are inevitable comparisons to The Cosby Show. “How can two professionals have kids who are that stupid or uninformed?” *clears throat* Enter: Theo Huxtable. One of Cliff’s most famous lines was, “Theo, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” Most Americans (myself NOT included) send their kids to school for eight hours per day, so if they both work, they have little time outside of dinner to supplement their children’s educations. School is an institution with its own agenda. It is highly believable that the child characters on Black-ish are lacking in areas that the parents haven’t noticed for a few years. How much can one really know about their child if they spend approximately two and a half hours with them each day? I had a friend on Facebook who didn’t know that her child lacked good directional sense until last month. She’s in the eleventh grade! Moreover, it’s comedy. Hyperbole will be used for comedic effect.

Black-ish also highlights the ignorance that gets perpetuated every day. I practice traditional African spirituality and I have for over ten years now. I can’t count on two hands, ten toes, and two titties how many times a fellow African-American has asked or said something ignorant about it. I’ve heard “Ya’ll throw rocks at the ground?” “Do you drink period blood?” “What are the chickens for?” “Do you eat cowrie shells?” Some of the questions have been sincere inquiries, but most people were mocking African traditions the same way the father on the show did when he threw sticks in his son’s face during the “rights of passage” ceremony. It’s particularly irksome when people who have adopted the religion of the oppressor throw shade at those who go back to the source. Ignorance needs to be addressed, and I’m all for using humor to do it. Much of my website is satire. Scenes like this are no reason to show a throw away. I’m willing to keep the bones in the salmon croquette.

People need to see this show. Some folks don’t know how ridiculous they sound when they tell a biracial person that they aren’t “really black.” The scene between the mother (Tracee Elis Ross) and father in Black-ish addressed it in a simple, comedic way. The mother’s comment, “If I’m not black, could somebody please tell my hair and my ass” showed that she is clear that she is black, and she gently put the husband in his place for it. It is a sitcom (read: situation comedy). It has to be funny. It’s not a documentary on the History Channel. They have thirty minutes to get it in. If you expected wifey to pull out a crate, stand on it, and start preaching like Malcolm X, you were tuned into the wrong show. I know there is a fine line between comedy and “cooning,” and that line is thinner where race is involved. I don’t, however, consider highlighting racial inequality in the workplace or showcasing the ills of sending a black child to a predominantly white school (been there done that) equivalent to wearing blackface while doing a shuffle-ball-change.

I’m not interested in nitpicking at the details of one episode, because I’m in it for the series. If I agonized over every individual day with Hannibal, we would not still be happily married. This was a promising pilot for a show that plans to cover a lot of ground in a funny way. Stick with it. I’ll be there every week with a handful of Azzizah’s Herbal Green Popcorn (regular popcorn = Monsanto) tuning in to Tracee Ellis Ross’ shenanigans.

I’ll concede that the writers may need to decide who will be the conscious character(s) in the show. It’s difficult to reconcile a character who understands that his job is being racist and his kid is assimilating a little too far with the fact that he wouldn’t address the divisive comment that Lawrence Fishburne’s character, the grandfather, made — “Africans don’t like us anyway.” After brief reflection, however, I wasn’t surprised that Andre (Anthony Anderson’s character) didn’t “check” his father. It is not culturally typical for an African-American to go around putting their elders in their places. My father says all kind of things I don’t agree with. He’s old. I just let it ride.

Yes, the statement was divisive, but it is tossed around in black barbershops and on back porches all the time, so the show was correct in putting it up for discussion. We know that no group is a monolith. It is never safe to say “All African-Americans hate Africans” or vice versa, but it is not common in comedy to spell everything out either. That’s not funny. That’s dry. The audience was supposed to view grandpa’s comment as satire not as relatable. Sadly, so many people still agree with what the character said, that the statement became the impetus for an Amen chorus for some people (my daddy included) and defense cue for others (Mostly black Facebook. Black Twitter seemed to get the show).

Meanwhile, my ten-year-old completely understood each joke, knows the difference between satire and reality, and gets that literally and figuratively are two different things. She also knows her history and knows how to spot micro-aggressions when she encounters them. She didn’t feel awkward in the waiting room of the dance studio during Passover last April. The comment from a charismatic Jewish boy in the lobby, like Black-ish, simply served as a funny reminder that we aren’t the only group of people whose culture is slowly being washed away.

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