ABC’s ‘Blackish’ Links Attitudes About Money and Slavery, Then Gets Mad About It

Money, money, money was the theme on Wednesday night’s edition of ABC’s Blackish, titled “Keeping Up with the Johnsons.” Something of a weird dynamic emerged in the show, a paradox between Dre’s (Anthony Anderson) rampant spending on Ostrich-skinned sneakers, and Rainbow’s (Tracee Ellis Ross) harkening back to the lessons about money she learned from her weird hippie mother as a child:

Dre: And, please, do not project your weird relationship with money onto me.

Rainbow: What weird relationship?

Young Rainbow: Mommy, what's this?

Rainbow’s Mom: That's money. It's an artificial masculine construct that fosters hostility and war and builds a wall between you and love. Now, eat your mung beans.

Hmm. Artificial construct, huh? Based on that I can safely assume that Blackish’s writers, directors, producers, and actors will be giving away their “artificial constructs” at the end of the season, so as to avoid putting up a “wall between themselves and love?”

Probably not.

But Dre wasn’t out of the woods yet. He still had to come to grips with his rampant over-spending on shoes and clothes. But when surrounded by his white colleagues at work, he found a suitable outlet to explain in forceful terms just why it was that he struggled with the concept of parting with his expensive duds:

Assistant: What are those?! What are tho-- no, no, no, no. Seriously, what -- what's going on?

Dre: Budget cuts.

Assistant: Oh, no, no, no, this is not happening. Not on my watch. I have an emergency pair of crispykicks and a selection of hoodies in my cubicle. Go hit that.

Dre: No, no, it -- it's cool, it's cool.

Josh: Wh-- hold on, hold on. You have backup clothes? You're an assistant. Although, now that I think of it, I've never actually seen either of you wear
the same thing twice.

Both: Thank you.

Mr. Stevens: Oh, listen, Dre, if you're having budget concerns, you may consider repeating an outfit every once in a while.

Assistant: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. If he does that, you might as well start wearing holey flannels, scuffing up your kicks, and drive a Prius.

Josh: I drive a Prius.

Assistant: Of course you do.

Dre: See, you can do that. Brothers cannot. We have to dress the part just to get the part that you already have.

Mr. Stevens: Oh, so, it's a "Cultural" thing. I love this part of the day. I'm gonna sit and just listen and not weigh in. H.R. says I'm on my second strike, but I can't wait for the part where you explain how your outfits somehow relate to slavery. Go.

Assistant: Did he just say that?

Mr. Stevens: I did, and I-I -- and I feel like it's probably strike three? Ugh.

What part is it that the white guy “already has?” Was he already an ad executive at Dre’s firm because he happened to possess a Prius and skinny pants? I’m old enough to remember a time when dressing nice to work was something that all professional people did. Because dressing nice to work is something that all professional people do.

Not as some “artificial construct” (I like that term much better here, as opposed to when the hippie mom used it to talk about money) that somehow relates to slavery. A prediction that the guy with multiple HR strikes was absolutely correct in making, since we all know that’s exactly where Dre was going.

But, here’s a helpful hint for the writers at Blackish: if you don’t want people to think that every reference to African-American culture and the differences between black culture and white culture are going to have something to do with slavery, then stop making every reference to black culture have something to do with slavery. Like this clip, that Blackish actually opened the show with to discuss why black people view money the way they do:

Dre: Americans are consumers. We want the best, the baddest, and the biggest... unless, of course, the baddest is the smallest. Then you want that, until the baddest gets bigger again. We're all consumers, but at the risk of stereotyping us... black folks really get it in. We just do. But think about it -- if you didn't get a paycheck for 400 years...when you did finally get it, you might want to spend it.

Dylan Gwinn
Dylan Gwinn
Dylan Gwinn is an author and sports talk radio host.