By Moriah Comarcho-Mikhail
It’s rare to find a really good TV show nowadays, so when I do, I really appreciate it. What’s even more rare is to find a TV show that is culturally relevant and touches on sensitive topics while remaining light-hearted and politically neutral. “Black-ish” is that show.
Since 2014, the show has been delivering content that almost always perfectly aligns with the cultural conversation of the day. They cover everything from corporal punishment to police brutality to the use of the N-word. Here are a few of my favorite episodes (ranked).
4. “Crime and Punishment”
In my opinion, this is the episode when “Black-ish” turns from the same conversation of “Are we black enough?” and touches on other angsts that come with family life. “Crime and Punishment” starts with rebellious little Jack and his worrisome mother who loses him in the mall. Rainbow threatens him saying that when they get home, his father is going to spank him.
The rest of the episode follows Dre’s uneasiness with the task Bow has assigned of him. What I love about this episode is how common this conversation is and how it often ends with the same moral decision. Any parent saying they are “disappointed” with you hits harder than any belt.
“Black-ish” tackles another familiar conversation, but this time a conversation that’s been held on a national scale. The episode follows the anxiety, outrage and disappointment following the results of Trump’s election and aired just before Trump’s actual inauguration. Each of the family members handle the disappointment differently, but all seem to resonate with the country’s actual reactions.
Junior chooses to educate himself more, Bow decides to push her daughter to become more socially active, Dre remains silently outraged during political conversations at work and Zoey — she makes lemonade. Like most “Black-ish” episodes, Dre ends with a tear-jerking monologue — this one in particular is his response to his boss’s suggestion that Dre doesn’t care about what’s happening in the country. “I love this country even though at times it doesn’t love me back. For my whole life, my parents, my grandparents, me, for most black people, this system has never worked for us.” And continues, “I’m used to things not going my way. I’m sorry that you’re not and it’s blowing your mind, so excuse me if I get a little offended because I didn’t see all of this outrage when everything was happening to all of my people since we were stuffed on boats in chains.” Mic. Drop.
2. “THE word”
Little Jack forces us to explore another tricky subject in “THE word.” After Jack drops the N-bomb performing the classic “Gold Digger” by Kanye West, he is immediately punished. Dre and Bow argue that Jack can get away with it because, well — he’s black. But the question arises: should the word ever be used? This subject has been up for debate since the “repurposing” of the word, but Dre ends the episode by saying, “This whole country has been schizophrenic about what to call black people for two centuries. And the last person who should be held accountable for it is an 8-year-old boy who doesn’t have an ounce of hate in his heart.” Well said, Dre, well said.
This episode most showcases the “Black-ish” writers’ ability and agility in keeping up with conversations of the day. “Hope” was first aired in early 2016 while the conversation of police brutality was highly prevalent on the news, in classrooms and in family living rooms as well.
The episode is isolated in the Johnson’s living room while their TV is blasting upsetting news of yet another case of an unarmed black man’s murder by police and no indictment against the cop. As the Johnsons listen, they discuss their stances and anxieties on the matter. What I love is that each character assumes a different perspective on the issue — reflecting the reality of how this conversation looks across the nation.
Bow takes a more hopeful stance and shows sympathy for police that are just doing their job. Dre, like many of us, is angry that this is happening yet again. Junior takes a more educated, statistical approach, and Zoey seems indifferent. All of their cases are presented as valid but are also refutable by the opposing views. The conversation toggles from one viewpoint to another, but in the end, they all agree that something’s got to change.