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After the Show: Keeping it 'Real' on 'Black-ish'

Can a primetime sitcom seriously tackle race issues head on? That was the promised premise behind ABC’s Black-ish. And boy did it deliver.

Can a primetime sitcom seriously tackle race issues head on? That was the promised premise behind ABC’s Black-ish, starring Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross and Laurence Fishburne. And boy, did it deliver on the race issues—big and small—that most Black people can relate to. Small in that way a non-Black colleague assumes a certain “urban accent” when you come around because they want to be “down.” Big in that way Andre “Dre” Johnson (Anderson) is relegated to only working the urban division of a company because corporate America assumes that’s his only area of expertise.

Dre and his doctor wife Rainbow will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Cliff and Clair Huxtable, but one thing’s for sure from the premiere episode, Dre won’t wrap up conversations about race in as a neat a bow as Cliff would. (Did Cliff ever even touch on race?) He’ll have many moments when he questions whether “the American dream” truly speaks to his experience. He’ll have many moments where he feels like a puppet in corporate America.

Perhaps this is exactly the show needed to stick a pin in that “post-racial” bubble some primetime shows seem to exist in.

A few random thoughts about the show:

  • We should have known the show was going to “go there” when it opened with Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks.”


  • We’ll follow Laurence Fishburne wherever he goes. On Black-ish, he’s like Suga Mama in Proud Family; Bernie Mac on The Bernie Mac Show – that one character who always keeps it uncomfortably real.


  • Why does Dre suddenly wake up and realize his children don’t know enough about their Black culture? Where were they all this time? Why would’t their children know Obama is the first Black president? Oh wait, it’s television.


  • Dre talks about being “the big scary Black guy!” They actually said that on primetime TV. Primetime, people! We may be getting somewhere.


  • Could you not totally relate to that scene about the “clear separation” between lower management (people of color) and upper management in corporate America?


  • If you like throwing a proverbial middle finger at stereotypes, this is your show.

Memorable lines of the night:

“If I’m not really Black, can someone tell my hair and my ass?”

“It’s a Black company, you gotta make an adjustment for the Negro Inflation Tax.”

“We get Cheetos and grape soda, while they always get what looks like a medieval feast.”

“Did they just put me in charge of Black stuff?”

“So, fried fried chicken is too Black for you?”

Questionable line of the night:

“We not African, we Black! Africans don’t even like us.” Full disclosure: I’m an African married to an African-American who found this line totally unnecessary and hurtful. Relying on the “Africans vs. Black” trope is an easy way to get laughs, but it is divisive. The issue is way more complicated and deserving of deeper exploration. *Gets off the soap box*

Share your thoughts on Black-ish tonight? Are you excited?