Last Wednesday night, my wife came charging downstairs and demanded to know “what all that noise was”! It was me, rolling around, pounding the floor, and laughing hysterically at a recent episode of ABC’s hit TV show, ‘black-ish. Through tears of hilarity, I squinted at the remote to find the replay button.
“You gotta watch this,” I implored between guffaws. She frowned and went back upstairs.
“No worries, babe, ” I called after her. “I DVR’d it!” I don’t think she heard me.
Well, I love her to death, but it’s her loss. That was one of the funniest, realest, most refreshing takes on “the struggle” that I’ve seen in a while.
In this episode, entitled “Keeping Up With The Johnsons”, Dre and family learn a heart-warming lesson about being financially responsible. It takes effort to hold on to the American dream; navigating office politics at lucrative white-collar jobs, keeping house in an upscale neighborhood, caring for aging parents, all while raising kids, trying to get them to college, and maintaining a functional marriage. It’s exhausting! (If it sounds like I’m speaking from experience, well, the shoe fits!)
But there’s an added struggle that burdens many people of color as we become more affluent. It is the struggle to maintain our blackness. In our own minds, of course we’re still black, we’ve always been black, and will always be black. But this conviction of our own blackness is challenged in dozens of subtle ways by the society around us. The more affluent we become, the more we are bombarded by judgements: black people are supposed to do this, not that. Before you know it, we’ve gone from ghetto to bougie to oreo in the blink of an eye. It should be up to us to define our own blackness, and everyone else needs to accept that.
Ironically, I find this idea reflected in the title ‘black-ish, as if wealth somehow threatens our authenticity. It’s a theme we’ve seen before in the The Cosby Show, and before that in The Jeffersons. The humor is driven by the inevitable culture clash that occurs as typical, every day black people become more affluent. Is it possible for the average guy to be rich and black? For some reason, rappers, athletes, and movie stars can acquire wealth and their blackness remains basically unchallenged by society. Ah, but I digress; let me save some exploration of this for another post.
Bottom line is, I love the fact that ‘black-ish portrays an affluent black family dealing with the day-to-day in humorous ways. However, I think you will agree with me that oftentimes we need to be reminded that life is about people, and we don’t always need to put a color or ethnicity or hyphenated adjective in front of the description.