'Black-ish' Poignantly Tackled Colorism With An Honest Family Conversation
Everyone seems to be talking about Tuesday night’s episode of Black-ish after a conversation about colorism nearly tore the Johnsons apart. Sparked by Diane’s school picture, the episode titled “Black Like Us” tackled colorism by honing in on the Johnson’s own issues with complexion within their own family.
Things were tense during the episode, which saw Ruby, played by ESSENCE’s February cover star Jenifer Lewis, opening up about growing up in a Creole family and being darker than her cousins. Ruby shared that she was made to play in the backyard while her lighter-skinned cousins played out front.
Diane, portrayed onscreen by Marsai Martin, then also opened up about the colorist comments she faces every day, from being told that a certain shade of lipstick won’t work for her dark skin to being told she’s pretty for a dark-skinned girl.
Rainbow and Junior, played by Tracee Ellis Ross and Marcus Scribner, also shared their experiences as the light-skinned members of the family, pushing back as Ruby and Dre (Anthony Anderson) attempted to defend their own bias against light-skinned people as just jokes.
The episode’s writer, Peter Saji, and co-showrunner Kenny Smith admitted to The Root that the episode was difficult to unpack with such limited time, but led to intense conversations in the writers room.
“Our own personal conversations about colorism came up,” Smith said. “People talked about how it hurt them or made them feel stronger as a Black person. What we want is for the whole community—and people who aren’t in the community, such as [non-Black] Latinos and Asians—to start having these conversations with themselves and the community [through] seeing themselves in this episode.”