This past Monday, Andrea Peyser of the New York Post published an article claiming the show ‘Black-ish’ perpetuates racist stereotypes of Black people.
Among other ridiculous things like quoting Donald Trump and talking about her daughter’s one Black friend, Peyser says, “In the world of “Black-ish,” well-to-do black people are not black at all. They’re “black-ish.’’ All this is played for yuks.”
Many people share her frustration with the show. Many think her article is absolute garbage. Here is a breakdown of the viewpoints on this topic:
‘Black-ish’ is “racist drivel masquerading as social commentary”
Among the show’s detractors—the most vocal ones being White—there are two common criticisms of ‘Blackish’. One is that the show is recycling Black stereotypes, like the idea of Black people in a higher socioeconomic class being “less Black”. The other is, well…IT’S CALLED BLACK-ISH SO IT’S RACIST.
Seriously though, I would have pulled another point from Peyser’s article, but the most popular tweets criticizing the show only make reference to the show’s title. Or, in @kMAXwell_20’s case, misguided comments about what the show actually portrays (certainly not racism toward White people):
‘Black-ish’ is not offensive. Stop talking.
The most vocal supporters of the show on social media are Black. This is extremely noteworthy. If the show’s critics are upset about how Black people are being portrayed, but Black people are not, how is that criticism valid?
Generally speaking, Black viewers are comfortable with the representation of the characters in ‘Black-ish’. The show is based on the creator’s authentic experiences, and the issues raised in the show are real issues within the Black community.
Let’s list some of these issues: how elevated socioeconomic status challenge’s a Black person’s understanding of one’s self; the conflict between Black adults who grew up with race at the center of their universe, and Black children who barely factor it into their lives; why urban (i.e. Black) influence in American pop culture is seen as appropriation by some and a zeitgeist by others.
All of these issues are unique to the Black community. Who is Andrea Peyser to say the show does nothing but perpetuate stereotypes when the stereotypes referenced in the show are only one aspect of a larger discourse on the Black American family experience?
Some very strong responses on the matter:
This tweet captures another popular response supporters of ‘Black-ish’ have for the show’s critics: White people are just frustrated when a show’s sole focus is on the social experiences of non-White people.
Yes, the show plays on stereotypes a lot, but its supporters see it as a way to provoke discussions about issues in the Black community that go unnoticed by the American mainstream.
Racial minorities have to constantly deal with stereotypes of their racial group. Speaking as a racial minority, internal conflicts and conflicts between family and peers about what it means to be of a certain race or ethnicity are common. Since the racial category of Black is tied so intimately to lower socioeconomic class, any Black person trying to exist in a higher part of society has to constantly deal with the bullshit shown in ‘Black-ish’.
People have similar things to say about Eddie Huang’s ‘Fresh Off The Boat’, a show based on Huang’s cross-cultural experiences with his Taiwanese-American family. A lot of the shit Huang gets for ‘Fresh Off The Boat’ is the same shit Black-ish receives. Among other things, it’s White people telling him that his show is racist and that his show perpetuates stereotypes.
Here are two of his responses curated on an Upworthy article:
Brilliant response #1:
I should end the whole goddamn post on this one.
Huang shuts down the ridiculous notion of White people policing non-White racial sensitivity with one sentence.
Critics referred to the portrayal of Eddie’s mother in particular when saying the representation of the Taiwanese-American experience on the show seems stereotypical. But Huang’s mother DOES have an accent and a lot of the racial awkwardness and stereotype-based joking IS a part of the minority social experience in America.
Kenya Barris, the creator of ‘Black-ish’, has also based his show on personal family experiences. Here is a quote from a ‘Black-ish’ review article on The Independent:
“My daughter was trying to describe to me a kid in her class,” he said, “and she’s going on and on, and finally I had to stop her and say, ‘Are you talking about the only other little black girl in your class?’ And she was like, ‘Oh yeah, I guess so,’ and I was like, ‘Well why didn’t you just say that?’ I looked at my wife and she was like, ‘Isn’t that beautiful? She doesn’t see colour!’ And I was like, ‘No, that’s ridiculous’.”
A couple of major themes in ‘Black-ish’ can be picked out of just this one quote about Barris’ experience with his daughter. These themes are REAL and honestly, criticism in the same vein as Peyser’s article is only due to the show’s unabashed presentation of a Black family.
Based on the reactions shows like ‘Black-ish’ and ‘Fresh Off The Boat’ have received, it is clear that Americans are still uncomfortable seeing the social problems of non-White people being seriously touched on in any form of media. These shows push the nation forward by simply existing, but also by providing realistic representations of neglected people without generalizing the experiences of racial minorities.