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Movies & TV > Buzzfeed: How “Black-ish” Reflects My Own Experience As A Black Person In America

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message 1: by Paganalexandria (last edited Oct 31, 2014 10:08PM) (new)

Paganalexandria  | 4037 comments I was on Buzzfeed today, and they had an interesting article about the show Black-ish and how it related to the writer's own childhood experiences. Thought I'd share it here, to get your take:

How “Black-ish” Reflects My Own Experience As A Black Person In America

ABC’s new family sitcom — the No. 1 new comedy of the season — isn’t just challenging the largely lily-white comedy lineup of the networks, it’s doing something more: reminding me of my own childhood.

Grandma Louise’s voice comes in just as clear as day, when I overheard her talking to my parents, describing my childhood experience: fly in the churn of buttermilk.
I was the fly. The buttermilk was the all-white world I was growing up in. I would never know the struggle that my parents did — Dad grew up in the South and was a college freshman in Montgomery, Alabama, by the time the civil rights movement hit its height, and Mom grew up on Detroit’s lower west side, where they were busing kids all over the city in order to force segregation.
My life was vastly different, and it came with its own set of problems. In your formative years, you often see yourself through the prism of your friends. In third grade, we had a project where we all had to write about ourselves as if we were entries in a dictionary. In my description, I wrote I had blonde hair and blue eyes. In sixth grade at a school dance — one of the first times I wasn’t one of the only black kids in class — a group of my friends and I all were dancing, trying to imitate what we saw the black kids doing. I was surprised when one of the girls strolled up to me and whispered, knowingly, “Look at them trying to dance like us.” She looked at me like I was crazy when I gave her my reply. “I’m trying to dance like y’all too. Teach me.”
I was the fly.
My parents unknowingly signed up for this battle when they decided that having a decent salary and good academic pedigree meant taking your family out to the suburbs. With few exceptions in this country, when you’re black, that typically means being sans people who look like you.
That’s why I laughed. I laughed loud and hard last weekend when I finally gave ABC’s new show Black-ish a second chance. I’d seen the pilot months ago, and while I was intrigued and, well, publicly championing a show that featured an affluent black family with a prime spot on network TV to anyone who asked me, I wasn’t quite sold on it. The pilot was loaded, and featured lesson on top of lesson on top of lesson. Dre (Anthony Anderson) is from the ‘hood. Dre promised his mom and dad (Laurence Fishburne) he’d get a good education and get out of the ‘hood. Dre is married to Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), who is a doctor. Ooh, look: Black people can earn college degrees! See?!
Then there was the teen son who wanted a bar mitzvah, and the African rites of passage ceremony, and the lesson on keeping it real.
I thought it was doing too much. The couple’s oldest son prefers field hockey to hoops. Then there was the honorary brother handshake. The wannabe honorary brother who whispers when he wants to know the mundane: “How would a black guy say ‘good morning’?” All in the first episode.
It was funny. But, yawn. Most of us live this without a laugh track. And to me, there wasn’t much else to say. I wasn’t keen on the idea of a weekly show that essentially could end with “…and that’s your lesson of the day on black people, America…” because quite frankly, I get tired of tutorials.
Still, I made a commitment to watch the show. I want it to do well. As a black journalist who covers the entertainment industry, I need it to do well — it gives me a chance to write and report on stories that are important to me, and to the readership I hope to serve. Plus, at the end of the day, I do like seeing reflections of myself, my family, and my social circle play out on screen...

message 2: by Michelle, Mod with the Bod (new)

Michelle Gilmore | 3396 comments Mod
Thanks for starting this thread Pagan! I'll read it and comment later.

message 3: by Tea (new)

Tea | 464 comments Great piece. I really wish I'd read it sooner. it speaks to me, as my #2 sister and I very nearly fell into the same trap as the author. Hell, we did fall into that trap, but our interventions came when we were just shy of our teen years. In fact, since our family started working on her when she was twelve and I was about ten, I received a double dose and ended up internalising the lessons sooner than she did. But I think even she has been coming around over the past few years.

message 4: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Jackson (paperbackdiva) | 335 comments ...Most of us live this without a laugh track....

This is exactly what I've been feeling! I just don't think I can watch the show anymore. My kids and even more so, my grandkids, just don't relate to this. I'm terrified for my black children to walk in the streets of our suburb after dark or get pulled over for a traffic violation, yeah. But I don't care if they play the tuba in band or join the zoology club after school.

Basically I think we've moved past what this show is making issues of. Besides, the great Bernie Mac did the same premise funnier on his show several years ago.

message 5: by Tina (last edited Dec 06, 2014 10:00AM) (new)

Tina | 1379 comments Andrea wrote: Basically I think we've moved past what this show is making issues of. "

I don't think we actually have. And it is not just indicative of black culture. The trope of a second or third generation having assimilated or adopted the ways of a dominant culture and thereby not holding onto the ways of their own is a very common one that touches many groups. Not just ethnic ones but also religious based. And it is still very much true today because so many cities and towns have little ethnic enclaves like "Little Italy's' and 'Chinatowns' and other identifiable neighborhoods where pockets of people have all settled together to keep these traditions alive.

While I generally enjoyed and felt a lot of commonality with the writer of the thinkpiece, there is one comment that somewhat bothered me: "knowing where you come from" and tying that almost exclusively to income rather than culture. As if black culture is inextricably tied to being hood and poor. Instead of like any other culture it is tied into understanding history and traditions.

It also brushes uncomfortably close to the idea of 'acting black' and some of the scorn that young black kids can get from their peers for wanting to learn, speak properly and strive.

I see the premise of the show as one father's anxiety, which is valid in many ways, but which we learn each episode is somewhat unnecessary as his kids are more tuned in than he knows. In fact I would say that is true of every kid today. Moreso than the kids of the Cosby show generation. These kids have lightning fast access to all sorts of information. Kids don't live in a vacuum of only their parent's home. They live out amongst their peers as well.

I actually enjoy the show. It is funny as hell and has excellent performances by everyone. There are also some very sharp moments of social commentary that have noting to do with race. There was one great scene where Dre comes to work late explaining he was doing all this stuff with his kids. And he is being congratulated for being this great dad. Ten seconds later a female colleague comes running in apologizing for being late because her kid was sick and the boss just says something like, try to call if you're going to be late.

Also, the littlest daughter, Diane, is a revelation. That little girl is everything! I could watch scenes with just her, the kid who plays the oldest son, Junior and Tracee Ellis Ross.

message 6: by Ines (new)

Ines Johnson My 12 year old son loves this show. He comes home every Wednesday afternoon asking what time its coming on. He gets a lot of the jokes too. I appreciate it (sometimes) because it forces me to talk about sensitive issues with him -like stereotyping, entitlement...and masturbation. That was a fun episode -not.

My 13 year old daughter is not interested.

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