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'black-ish' Took On Donald Trump Last Night, and It Was Brilliant Television

By Dustin Rowles | TV | January 12, 2017 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | January 12, 2017 |

On most weeks, black-ish is a solid, funny B+ sitcom. However, every other month or so, they will tackle a particular issue (the N-word, spankings, etc.) and turn in an exceptional, resonant, funny and poignant installment, the kind of episode that merits the series’ Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Last night’s black-ish was one of those episodes, and it was one of its best.

Not only was the sitcom the first to really devote an entire episode to Donald Trump — rather than a few jokes here and there (“We did have a black president before the orange one!” — It’s Always Sunny) — but they did so in a way that didn’t pull punches where it concerns Trump himself. There were a few moments where they conceded that maybe not everyone who voted for Trump was a racist, but on the man himself, they did not mince words, recognizing that “the world had become a giant mixed vortex of anxiety and elation and that we seemed to be more openly divided than ever.” It also pointedly recognized that no one has gotten anything in their workplaces done since November because conversation about Trump take up so much oxygen.

The episode also sought to cast blame for Hillary’s loss, first by blaming black people for not turning out. That was quickly shot down, however, because of course, the show suggested, black people aren’t going to show up in as big of a numbers for Hillary as for the first Black President. “That’s just crazy. We’re talking about the man who had a left-hand jumper and smoked menthols. Coolest President we ever had … we had to vote for him.”

Then blame was shifted to White women. Here’s how that went.

Here’s the scene that everyone is going to be talking about this morning, as well they should.

Where the episode pivoted to its most poignant moment, however, was where the show tried to bring us all together in solidarity against Donald Trump. “I know how hard it is to deal with the gut punch we are all feeling right now,” he said to his workplace colleagues, a mix of Black and White co-workers. “But maybe instead of letting this destroy us, you take that feeling you guys felt the day after the election and say, ‘That morning, we all woke up knowing what it felt like to be Black.”

Then Dre brought it home in a way that didn’t excuse the votes for Trump, but demanded that we get past it.

“Do I understand what anyone in their right mind could’ve seen in Trump? No! But maybe that’s why we lost. Over 50 million people felt something, and I’m not saying that they were right. But I don’t think it’s possible that all, half, or even most of them were nuts. Or racists. Or hated women. [I don’t know what they were feeling] but I do feel it’s time we stopped calling each other names and we start trying to have those conversations. If we don’t, we’ll end up in a country that’s even more divided for a long time.”

Cue MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and a million goose bumps and tears erupt all over America when he proclaims, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we’re free at last.”

Last night’s black-ish represents the great promise of television as a tool for teaching, as a tool for healing, and as a tool for generating conversation. It was an episode for the ages, and a blueprint for how network television — instead of dodging the most prominent topic of conversation today — needs to tackle it head on and bring in its many, varied viewpoints so we can all begin having those conversations.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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