“Black-ish” is a sitcom that depicts the lives of Dre Johnson and his family. Dre has all the traps that come with being successful. He has a good job as an advertising executive, a beautiful home in an upmarket neighborhood, a gorgeous wife – Rainbow, and four beautiful kids – Zoey, Andre, Miles, and Jack. However, Dre begins to question, whether his success has isolated him from the black community. With his father’s (Ear Johnson) help, Dre tries to create a form of ethnic identity for his children, which will help them to appreciate their black heritage and tackle issue that black people face in America.
The show portrays the American culture’s perception of black people in the community and provides a platform for them to express their sentiments regarding things that affect them and their lives, such as racial stereotypes and, in essence, American culture. In a way, the show promotes the right of African Americans but not in firebrand radicalism characteristic of Martin Luther King Jr.
A commentary on an episode aptly named “The Elephant in the Room” provides a satirical insight into the reason most black people in America being Democrats. This is displayed through Junior’s decision to join the Young Republican’s Club in school. His parents are outraged when they discover this, but interestingly offer no plausible explanation as to why he should not be a Republican. It seems to be determined from birth that a Black American should naturally be a Democrat, and one would seem to be making an unacceptable thing by being a Republican. This episode offers an insight into the American culture, where all black people should be Democrats; otherwise one will be considered an outcast (Alston).
Another episode that portrays racism and police brutality against black people in American culture is “Hope.” The episode shows the Johnson twins, Jack and Diane, and their parents’ attempts to explain the police brutality towards them. Dre believes that prejudice against the black community will never end, while his wife Rainbow tries to inspire hope in her children that the future can be different, albeit skeptically. This discussion arose after the family watched a controversial court case on television, in which police officers were charged with brutality. The episode also incorporates the elation and hope that the election of President Barack Obama brought to the black community and the sad realization that the American society will never be purged from issues, such as racism. The episode ends with Dre, his father, Rainbow, and their two eldest children attending a rally, which expresses the episode’s title that there is still hope in trying to end racism in America and the struggle must continue. Therefore, this episode is an actual representation of the American culture of racism against black people and police brutality against this community (Seitz).
Season two premiere, “The Word” tackles the use of the word “nigger” and how American culture perceives it. It is seemingly okay for African Americans to use it when referring to each other but unacceptable for White Americans to use it in reference to African Americans. This debate is caused by Jack Johnson’s use of this word during his school’s talent show, and it risks expulsion for violating the school’s policy on hate speech. Interestingly, the school principal is black and Dre refers to him using this term when they meet. Dre is also shocked to learn that his daughter, Zoey, does not see anything wrong with her white friends using the term. The episode then pays attention to Dre alongside his co-workers trying to explain the use of this word and why it is acceptable only for black people to use it. They also discuss the younger generation’s careless use of this word that holds a lot of meaning to them. Zoey’s attitude also portrays the younger generation’s indifference to the use of this word that has stemmed from the America’s dark history of slavery and prejudice against the black community (Hope).
Another discussion of American culture concerning African Americans is portrayed in the episode “Please Don’t Ask; Please Don’t Tell.” This episode shows the notion that African Americans are homophobic and refrain from talking about family members who are gay. This is depicted by Dre’s statement at the beginning of the episode to the effect that gay and lesbian family members are not talked about in black families.
Rhonda, Dre’s sister, is a lesbian and he faces the daunting task of telling his mother, Ruby. Predictably, Ruby gets extremely angry when she discovers that her daughter is a lesbian and, to make matters worse, is actually planning to marry her partner, Sharon. A twist to the story is that most of the family members knew that Rhonda was gay but no one was willing to acknowledge this fact. Actually, the only reason as to why Dre exposed his sister to their mother is that he discovered that Rhonda was planning to marry Sharon without inviting her family members. His mother finally accepts her daughter’s sexual orientation, albeit grudgingly, because she does not want to lose her daughter (Toby).
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In conclusion, this sitcom centers on African Americans and the challenges they face every day, such as racism, in addition to common beliefs attributed to them and providing solutions to the aforementioned issues.
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