‘Black-ish’ Recap: Debating the N-Word

Black-ish came back swinging on the much debated use of the N-word.

First things first, homage must be paid to Zoey’s box braids. Bomb! The season two premiere opens with Jack dancing and rapping to Kanye West’s 2005 hit “Gold Digger” during his school talent show. Jack raps the N-word along with Kanye to everyone’s surprise. The school administration is appalled, points to their zero tolerance policy that Rainbow created, and expels Jack from school.

Dre is not having it. Like a lot of Black folks, he feels his son should be able to say the word in the same way women have reclaimed “bitch.” If you’re wondering where Jack learned the N-word in the first place, you already know— Dre. “Gold Digger” is Dre’s favorite song so they listen to it every day on the way to school. Rainbow doesn’t think anyone should say the word. Pops is riding with Rainbow, but he definitely uses the word himself. “It’s never said casually, and it’s never said amongst mixed company,” he instructs.

During a meeting at work Dre vents to his two Black co-workers, Charlie and Curtis, who are on his side. “My house is not a home,” Dre whines. “Not if you can’t say n-gga it’s not,” responds Charlie. Josh interjects his White opinion against their warnings. He doesn’t get why he can’t say. And bossman Mr. Stevens only writes a half million dollar check to the NAACP so he can say colored. Curtis and Charlie are ready for a pseudo war over Mr. Stevens enjoying the word “colored.”


Dre thinks he’s got his case in the bag when he sees Jack’s principal is Black. “Can you believe these White folks?” Dre asks. In attempt to make things worse like he always does Dre says to the principal, “My n-gga.” He was quoting Training Day, but Mr. Principal hasn’t seen it. The decision reached? Jack is expelled.

Dre wants to appeal the decision, but Rainbow thinks he’s done enough. Her plan is to rally the parents against the zero tolerance policy she created and have them back her at the board hearing. She fails miserably.

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Back at work Curtis and Charlie try explaining the rules of the N-word to their White co-workers. Mexicans can’t say it, but Dominicans and Puerto Ricans can. But only Puerto Ricans like Rosie Perez, not J. Lo. Terror Squad can say it but not Menudo. With all the rules Dre rethinks his stance.

Zoey admits she lets her White friends say it because they don’t mean anything by it. Now Dre is pissed. He gives a spiel about his generation fighting to take the word back while his daughter’s “sexta-Insta-dummy generation” gives everyone a pass. Pops blames Dre’s generation for the willy nilly use of it because of hip-hop. So now Dre’s back to fighting for his son’s right to say it while maintaining White folks bet’ not say it.


Bow has her flashcards at the board meeting that no one in the room is amused by. Then she argues her son is cute so he should get a pass. Finally she argues the circumstances are different because Jack’s Black. Thank God Dre shows up to save the day. It doesn’t go over too well, but he does make some valid points about Paula Deen saying it, being condemned for it but then earning over $100 million for her foundation. He also notes that Quentin Tarantino wrote the word over a hundred times in Django and won an Oscar. Too real.

The board decides to change Jack’s expulsion to a three-day suspension. Even one of the White board members teases the Black principal about not having seen Training Day. And although Dre sticks by his position that Jack can say the word, he has a heart-to-heart to let him know he thinks he should hold off on saying it until he understands the history behind the word. Jack thanks his dad for having his back. Dre even gets props from his dad about how he’s raising the kids. Of course it wouldn’t be right if Dre didn’t invite Zoey’s three non-Black male friends over to threaten them about using the N-word. Because non-Blacks just don’t get that pass. Sorry.

Did you catch the season premiere of Black-ish?