“Black-ish” — Offensive or Refreshing?

blackish2The new ABC sitcom has struck a chord — and set off a debate

By Maria Estevez Mackey

Since its debut  in September, the show Black-ish has sparked controversy. Starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson – as Bow and Andre Johnson. The ABC sitcom has been targeted for both its title and edgy subject matter.

The show focuses on an upwardly-mobile, middle-class African-American family living in suburban California, and how the Johnsons try to retain their Black identity in a sea of whiteness.  The show deals with racially sensitive issues through humor and situational comedy.

For instance, Andre Junior prefers to be called Andy instead of Dre, and would rather play field hockey, not basketball in order to better cope with being one of the few Black kids at his school. In a recent episode, teenage Zoey brought home her first real boyfriend, a white guy from France, also named Andre.

Despite the all of its controversy, Black-ish is considered a success with an average 7 million viewers per episode.

Some, like Donald Trump, have panned the show for its title, deeming it racist and socially irresponsible.  “Can you imagine the furor of a show, “Whiteish”! Racism at highest level?” Trump exclaimed over Twitter. Others claim that the show is laughing at the Black community not  with it.

But many naysayers fail to acknowledge the show’s relevance for a new generation of people of color. Blackish speaks to some of us who are constantly trying to redefine or explain our Blackness in our ever changing society. “Iit navigates that challenging territory with intelligence, wit and subversive purpose,” wrote Maureen Ryan on the Huffington Post.

The show’s most important message: there is no one way to define what it means to be Black. It’s nice to see a Black family on television without a mother hooked on crack or absentee father figure.  Like the Cosby Show from back in the day, sitcoms like this allow for a positive representation of Black people in the media.

These updated portrayals can do a lot to shift the cultural perspective. Though the title might be thought provoking and even angering for some, Black-ish deserves to be watched. If not for the quirky light hearted humor, and long running gags, watch it because it remains one of the few shows on television with a predominately African American cast that is portrayed in a way we can enjoy.

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