On last night’s episode of the ABC comedy show black-ish, the sitcom took a big chance and dedicated an entire episode on police brutality, racism, and the effectiveness of the American justice system. Although I only catch an episode of this show every now and then, I was made very well aware of this particular episode for some time because of its decision to center this episode on such heavy topics. And boy, it did not disappoint.
It would seem unusual to do a recap of a sitcom but it’s not often that this happens and thus it is important to talk about it and let it be captured as a notable moment of history that in this day and age, sitcoms can still very much matter and have a place in making a significant impact to get people talking.
The episode in question centered around the family watching the news with the story about a young man who was brutalized by the cops on video and an indictment decision pending. It therefore lead to “The Talk,” something that unfortunately many African American families have with their children about the unfortunate realities of police brutality and racism against black citizens. In the case with black-ish, it was something that was inevitably going to happen, and in a span of a mere 22 minutes, I was amazed by what the show creators were able to do as they weaved in Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, Ta-Nehisi Coates and James Baldwin, the Malcolm X black nationalism before and after our lead Andre Johnson (played by Anthony Anderson)’s generation, and the verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial, and the fear that gripped the community when newly elected President Obama emerged from his bulletproof limo on inauguration day.
All in all, it accomplished a daunting task of instilling a tremendous of American racial history without making it seem too generalized.
But despite the numerous references they made, it was somehow able to be broad and at the same time, extremely specific in the message that they were sending to their audiences. While the topic is rather political, it never leaned too far into any political stance but rather the heart of the matter being hope and the choice whether to protect one’s children from the harsh realities of the world. The humor was never dropped as they made a delicate balance in not trivializing a heavy serious topic matter but also not bumming you out completely.
It is, therefore, essential viewing, whether you’re a black-ish fan, a casual viewer, or someone who has never seen a single episode. With this, the amazing boldness of Beyoncé at the Super Bowl and Kendrick Lamar performing at the Grammy, respectively. Each with a clear message about racism, police brutality, and at the heart of it all, black pride, there is a definite pop culture movement in serious motion that has the courage to do what art was intended to do: change the world.