As our nation celebrated and honored the great Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, one show on television was furthering racial divisions by portraying white police officers as racist bullies who will shoot an innocent little boy just because he’s black, and claiming that racist white business owners are becoming “the new normal.” This, after leaving us with an episode that mocked Christianity before taking their winter break.
The CW’s All American is a high school football drama series that highlights the differences between life in mostly white Beverly Hills as compared to the inner city of Crenshaw, CA. Gentrification was at first the focus of Monday’s episode, “One of Them Nights,” as some of the characters complained about a new fro-yo shop that opened in Crenshaw.
When the young friends, one of whom is white, enters the store, the white female owner continuously casts suspicious stares at them. The star of the show, Spencer (Daniel Ezra), begins to get into a verbal altercation with his little brother, Dillon (Jalyn Hall), causing Dillon to drop his yogurt on the floor. The owner insists that they leave, but Spencer protests, saying he wants to finish buying his little brother a frozen yogurt. The owner responds, “I don't want to have any problems with you people.”
“Us people,” Spencer replies. “You mean the black people in the neighborhood you just moved into?” Rather than make a scene, however, Spencer decides to leave and insists on paying for the yogurt that was spilled, telling the owner it would be the last time she’ll ever get their money. As the group talks about what happened outside of the store, Kia (Asjha Cooper) states, “Chicks like her are becoming the new normal.”
The police then show up on the scene and begin asking to see I.D. before almost pulling a gun on Dillon.
Spencer: Come on.
Officer Whitner: We need to see some I.D.
Spencer: May I ask why?
Officer Bright: According to the owner of Bunch-O's, a person fitting your description was loitering and causing disorderly conduct.
Kia: You don't have to answer that question, Spence. I've already committed their names and badge numbers to memory. Officers Bright and Whitner.
Officer Whitner: A lot of gangs congregate in this area. Are you in one?
Spencer: Go stand next to Jordan, Dillon. Go on. Look, the owner straight profiled us, ok? We didn't do nothing wrong.
Officer Bright: But you did get into a fight in the store.
Spencer: An argument with my little brother. Doesn't mean I'm in a gang.
Officer Bright: It doesn't mean you aren't.
Spencer: Can we go now?
Officer Whitner: Hey, watch your tone.
Asher: This is unnecessary, officer.
Officer Whitner: Step aside, son. This doesn't concern you. Now, I'm gonna ask you one more time. Where's your I.D.?
Spencer: Wait. Wait. Wait. No, no, no! No! Don't run, you hear me? You don't ever run. Come on. Come on. Let's go.
Officer Bright: No one's leaving till you finish answering our questions.
Spencer: Your partner almost pulled a gun out on us!
The officers leave, and later, Olivia talks to her boyfriend Asher (Cody Christian), telling him that the fro-yo owner “tried to blow up our lives the same way Barbecue Becky did. I guess I can add fro-yoing while black to the list of things I can't do.” They then give the fro-yo owner the nickname “Crenshaw Cathy.” Olivia adds, “You hear about the Barbecue Beckys and the Doorman Daves of the world, and you think you know how bad it is, but the truth is, until today, I had no idea.”
Olivia decides to start a podcast, telling her father, “People like Crenshaw Cathy need to be exposed for the harm they cause,” she says. “And more than that, people around here need to understand the injustices that are going on and what they can do to help.”
“Okay, Shaun King,” her father quips, which is the closest they come to referencing the obvious Black Lives Matter plotline. “I mean, whether it's police brutality or racial inequality or whatever, I'm putting it on blast,” Olivia continues. “I'm tired of living in this Beverly Hills bubble while the rest of the world crumbles around us.”
While Hollywood continues to divide us with such storylines, it might be a good time to reflect on an important quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. on his national holiday and remember that he preached about unity and togetherness, as well as love being the answer to hate:
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”