The two week hiatus that ABC’s Blackish took from any discernible bias or controversy came to a sudden and violent end on Wednesday night, in an episode titled ‘Hope’. Billed as a “very special episode,” the Johnson family gathers around the television set and takes the audience through the experience of what it’s like to be a black family watching the verdict in a case of police brutality against black people. Or, I should say, what it’s like to be a liberal black family watching the verdict in a case of police brutality against black people
After watching a CNN montage of protesters and police in riot gear, leading up to the announcement of the verdict in the hypothetical case, Dre’s (Anthony Anderson) son asks him why the protestors are so angry. Then this happens:
Grandpa: Because the police are damn thugs.
Mom: Not all police.
Dre: Yeah, only 92%. The other 8% are advisors on "Law & Order" episodes.
Mom: Okay! Guys, why don't you go to the kitchen, get some to-go menus, and see if you can find us something good to have for dinner tonight.
Daughter: Why even bother? We're just gonna end up at Chipotle again.
Son: We cannot let that happen.
Mom: Well, why don't you go find something good, then? See what we can find, huh? Thank you.
Grandmother: You know, you can try and mask the problems of this world in savory barbacoa meat and floury tortillas if you choose, Rainbow, but it doesn't change the fact the police in this country have a problem with Black folks.
Dre: Thank you, Mama.
Junior: It's a little more nuanced than that, Dad.
Mom: Thank you, Junior.
Dre: I can't wait until a cop gets ahold of your ass.
Junior: Police definitely have a place in society, but with almost 1,000 police-related fatalities and billions of dollars in misconduct settlements...There might be some issues.
Of course, people trying to kill police officers is kind of an issue as well. As is throwing out numbers on officer-involved killings without shedding any light whatsoever as to the circumstances that led to those killings. I’m sure Blackish will deal with all that next week.
But enough about that. On to the family fight that ensues after the reading of the verdict. The debate reveals that 25% of the people shot by the police in L.A. County between 2010 and 2014 were unarmed. Which leads to this exchange:
Mom: Okay, obviously I am anti-police brutality. But that doesn't mean I have to be anti-the-police. Look, 25% of these suspects are unarmed, which is horrible. But that means that 75% of them were armed. The police have to deal with that every day.
Son: I guess what you're saying makes sense, but isn't that their job, Mom? I mean, if you killed one out of every four of your patients, wouldn't that make you a pretty bad doctor?
Killing 25% of your patients would definitely be a negative. But in order for this analogy to work, you need a huge majority of that 25% of patients to be actively trying to kill their doctor. Or other people around them. Something that most people in hospital waiting rooms seem disinclined to do.
Maybe if more hospital patients attacked their doctors and tried to kill them with their own scalpels, like Michael Brown attacked Darren Wilson, attempting to kill Wilson with his own gun, you could pull that off. But in reality, it’s just not a very smart thing to say.
The melodrama did not end there, however. Dre poured it on extra thick when explaining to Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) the importance of not shielding their kids from how racist the world around them truly is:
Dre: The system is rigged against us.
Bow: Maybe it is, Dre. But I don't want to feel like my kids are living in a world that is so flawed that they can't have any hope.
Dre: Oh, so you want to talk about hope, Bow? Obama ran on hope. Remember when he got elected, and -- and we felt like maybe, just maybe, we got out of that bad place and made it to a good place? That the whole country was really ready to turn the corner. You remember that amazing feeling we had during the inauguration? I was sitting right next to you. And we were so proud. And we saw him get out of that limo and walk alongside of it and wave to that crowd. Tell me you weren't terrified when you saw that. Tell me you weren't worried that someone was gonna snatch that hope away from us like they always do. That is the real world, Bow. And our children need to know that that's the world that they live in.
Don’t his kids also live in the world where absolutely none of that actually happened? Don’t they also live in the world where millions upon millions of white people (misguided and wrong as they were) elected that same black president? Twice? A world where white Secret Service agents watched over Obama every step of the way, and no one, white or black, shot at him?
Why would the kids accept his worldview about how the world perceived Obama, when his worldview has no foundation in reality?
I don’t know. All I know is I’m really looking forward to when Blackish gets back to the light-hearted racial humor it does so well, and leaves the racial justice warrior stuff alone.