Black-ish, ABC’s amazing comedy series, deals with being black and successful in today’s America. Black-ish aired an episode concerning an issue that has been on the minds of black people for decades. Police brutality. The show did it in a way that was so incredibly nuanced it was perfect. There has not been a show on television in a very long time that has so perfectly dealt with being black the way Black-ish has. When ABC aired the initial promo I got chills. The episode was titled, “Hope”, and hit on so many amazing points. If you haven’t seen the episode you can watch it full on abc.com. Also, if you don’t want spoilers you should probably stop reading now.
The show opens with a great montage of images like Kent State and John F. Kennedy as well as Dre as a child watching the McDuffie riots in Miami. Bow, Dre, Pops, Ruby and the kids are watching the news waiting to hear whether an officer will be indicted for the killing of an unarmed youth. While watching Zoe, the eldest daughter, walks in and asks what is going on. The family proceeds to give a rundown of cases of murdered unarmed black people. Now, let me stop there. The fact that they ran down a list of murdered unarmed black people on a television show was amazing. All I could say was, “Jesus.” I was floored and loved the reference and use of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between The World And Me by Junior, the eldest son. If you haven’t read it, it is amazing and I highly recommend it. It reminds me a great deal of Baldwin’s Fire Next Time in the way he talks to his son in the novel. I thought it was great that Junior was the one to discuss the novel and its relevance to issues of police brutality and blackness in America. Ta-Nehisi Coates even made an appearance in the episode as a commentator on the news. I will say I was annoyed that they used Don Lemon, king of the shuckers and jivers, in the episode. I won’t dwell on that as it is the least important moment in the show. The scene that moved me the most was Dre’s, played by Anthony Anderson, monologue on hope.
Dre, who’s character is always quick to jump the gun, gave a monologue that moved me to tears. The hair on my neck stood up and I absolutely wept. Dre discussed the first inauguration of President Barack Obama and the moment that shook every black person I knew. After his inaugural speech, President Obama and the First Lady made their way down the parade route. While on the route, President Obama and the First Lady got out of the car, walked down the road, and waved at the hoards of people. I was standing in the crowd during that inauguration with one of my best friends. Dre said to Bow, “Tell me you weren’t terrified when you saw that? Tell me that you weren’t worried that someone was going to snatch that hope away from us like they always do?” My heart stopped. I remember the snipers on the roofs of the buildings and I started to pray. I can remember my best friend I saying, almost like a whisper, “Please…please, get back in the car.” The entire time Barack Obama was campaigning and while he was in the White House I prayed for him and his family. Because, in that moment, I did not think he would make it into the White House. And every single day I worried that he wouldn’t make it out. Black people have feared for our lives for so long that we could not bring ourselves to be completely happy for him. Not even to celebrate Barack Obama becoming President of the United States.
During that monologue, Dre’s eyes were full of tears and I am of the opinion that Anthony Anderson was no longer acting. In that moment, he felt those words down in his soul. Those were real tears of frustration, anger and fear. Those tears were for Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Jones, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin…and the list goes on. That scene moved so many of us to tears because as black people we are all too familiar with black men and women being gunned down by police. The people who are to protect us do not think we have the complexion for it so they take our lives and leave our loved ones to mourn. Yet, this episode was titled “Hope” and that is important. Hope and prayer has been the one thing that black people have always clung to. Slaves hoped and prayed for freedom and eventually they got it. Once free, black people hoped and prayed for educational equality, the end of Jim Crow and segregation. Eventually that came along or so we thought. The law may say we are equal but the McDuffie Riots in Miami, the Rodney King riots in L.A., and August 9, 2014 showed us we are all still hoping.
That is the part I struggle with every single day. That hope. When Bow was trying so hard to get Dre to understand why she wanted to protect the innocence of the younger children, I understood. I understood Dre vehemently arguing that the kids needed to know how the world truly works. When Zoe became terrified that Junior wanted to go out and protest we saw what Bow was so worried about. Her children being so scared of the world, they can no longer be children. What do you do when every 28 hours a black person is gunned down and you have to send your children into that world? What do you do when you have to go out into that world? How can we allow little black boys and girls to be children, while also making sure they know how to navigate the world? Amiri Baraka once said, “hope is a delicate suffering.” I often wonder how much more suffering we can take.
Black-ish criticized the errs of the American justice system in prime time on one the leading networks. They showed images and said the names of black people we have been mourning. I am of the belief that one day we will have laws that will hold police accountable for their actions. With the advent of social media sites like Twitter the police can no longer hide their wrongdoings. That coupled with movements like Black Lives Matter have put the worries, fears and shouts of black people in the forefront. America is our home. We built this country with our blood, sweat and tears. Literally. The shackles are invisible but the request is still overwhelmingly the same. We just want to be free and we shall not be moved.