On February 24, "black-ish" tackled police brutality — and brought me to tears.
In the emotional and raw episode, the hilarious Johnson clan gathered in their living room to await a verdict in the fictional police-involved death of a Black teenager. Eventually, protests erupt after a jury declines to indict the officer.
Each member of the inter-generational family processes through their own emotional response to the news. Grandma Ruby gathers riot snacks, including government cheese and rice, and drops some witty one-liners to remind viewers that "black-ish" is, after all, a sitcom.
Pops Johnson and Dre Johnson — the two male patriarchs — flashback to the 1990's, when police brutality was also headline news. They also use revolutionary literature to connect with Junior Johnson, Dre's oldest son. James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Ta-Nehisi Coates are all discussed in this episode, as Junior realizes that he wants to join the protests.
Junior's older sister, Zoey Johnson, seems numb to it all. The charismatic teenager texts through the whole episode, so her family assumes she's disinterested in what's happening.
She eventually tells them that she's tired of having conversations that don't lead to justice. So, she hesitantly agrees to cover for Junior while he joins the protests.
youngest members of the Johnson family, Jack and Diane, are absorbing it
all, but are unsure of how to react. Their confusion causes the biggest
battle between Dre and his surgeon wife, Rainbow. Dre wants to discuss police brutality with Jack and Diane while Rainbow wants to keep the
children as innocent for as long as possible.
She also plays devil's
advocate in this episode. Bow believes in hope. She supports the police and believes that justice will prevail.
A verbal battle ensues between the parents, and also brings up the most poignant dialogue of the entire episode:
That's when I burst into tears. It was powerful to see a primetime network television show explore conversations that are often happening in Black homes, as we await the verdicts in far too many cases.
We've watched Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and a number of other Black people fatally shot with impunity. It's a helpless feeling. It feels like the same wound keeps being ripped open time and time again, before it even has a chance to heal.
I can't remember when the fear kicked in. It might have been after Trayvon or Tamir or Rekia. But now, I send up a prayer every time my boyfriend leaves our shared home. I, literally, feel stressed every time he leaves.
The same fear permeates after I speak to my brother, my mother, my father, my nephew, or my nieces. When I leave the house. When I see the cops in my rear view mirror. I worry that they or I will become a trending hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.
"black-ish" effectively took that fear and those conversations and put them on primetime television. It is absolutely a huge deal. It's also devastatingly sad that we have to engage in these conversations at all.
At the end of the episode, all of the children are more educated about race and police brutality. Their parents and grandparents even escort them to the protest so they can share their angst with others.
Dre tells Bow that "our children need to know that's the world they live in."
I agree. Black people need to know our lives are in constant danger — and seeing that on television matters.