this piece was to be a commentary on the television comedy,
Black-ish. Just before the holiday season, December 2018, I
rented season one of the program from a local library, and I watched
three episodes of season four online. What is all the hype about this
program and its Black creator, Kenya Barris?
few minutes into the first episode, I started thinking about the
creative team working on this production. Are they fearful of being
truly radical? Marketing a product and receiving recognition and
rewards for this product is a sure sign of success. In America. It
tackles police brutality, the “thorny” issues, according
Variety, of being Black in America. And Black-ish is a
success, “critically acclaimed” - even if its main “wife”
and “mother” figure, Rainbow, is also a physician, but
seen, that is, sold, primarily as a wife (and a mother of five!) to a
very successful business executive.
the consumers not question what’s being sold to them as
representing a “woman,” that is, a Black woman - part of
the package deal representing a Black family?
about the impact of white supremacy within the Black family?
Is Rainbow an ideal Black woman because she is second fiddle in the
relationship with her husband based on her gender and her income? Is
she to be viewed as a human who is neither of the normative gender
nor of the income bracket that designates truly successful American?
Rainbow is, then, what she lacks. We can all laugh at her for
what she lacks.
does Rainbow have time to study, to improve her knowledge of
medicine, to improve and update her skills as a doctor, a surgeon?
Where are her books? Where’s her computer? For that matter, in
what room, in that large home, is the family’s library? Where’s
the doctor’s medical library? In the first few minutes of
episode one, the viewer is to note the husband’s expansive
wardrobe that looks to take up an entire wall with plenty of pants,
shirts, shoes, coats and jackets. He has three green leather jackets
this massive home, where is Rainbow’s study? Where’s her
room of her own? The place for her to think, create, reflect? Would
it be acceptable, that is, marketable to see Rainbow or any Black
women just walk out of that huge state-of-the-art kitchen or that
massive bedroom, just walk out of the camera’s frame and
retreat to some space that’s her? Why should the
kitchen necessarily be her? Why should she be the one who must
respond humorously (entertainingly) to the antics of the
is “woman” in some version of the American Dream - for
Black Americans? So woman, intellect is the least favorable
aspect of your gender. And intellect, as a favorable characteristic
of a Black woman, well… No, you are more believable and
marketable entertaining the American public - thus assuring its
psyche that America will be made great again - soon.
of power, of women and children, yes…
commentary was supposed to be about not seeing Black women in
Black-ish. But something happened on the way to writing that
Alabama’s special election held on December 12, 2018, something
other than what was expected happened. Ninety-eight percent of Black
women in Alabama exert their power and, if only temporarily, the
image of Rainbow fades. The forgotten thought! Black women
took action! Shocked, Americans thanked Black women for
stopping Roy Moore’s plan to join the US Senate. I don’t
endorse politicians or the electoral process, but I was struck by the
response of the American public when it suddenly discovered Black
has this happened before in US history?
heard news commentators referring to the Black woman’s
c-o-n-t-r-i-b-u-t-i-o-n to the national/international dialogue about
sexual assault and abuse of power as if Black American women have
never ever c-o-n-t-r-i-b-u-t-e-d anything to this country, let alone
a discussion about a culture of rape and abuse of power!
supremacist depictions of Black women erase an entire legacy of the
Black struggle. What American expected Black women to send the
unconscionable to Washington to join in what is already an
unconscionable cesspool? By contrast, over 63% of white females in
Alabama couldn’t imagine Black women getting in the way of
sending the patriarch to Washington DC.
matter-of-fact as white supremacy, however, some Black women
organized in the basement of churches or in kitchens while cooking
the family meal or having cookies and coffee. Others hugged and
talked on front lawns or in backyards while others, still, standing
on curbs, exchanged names and email addresses of the neighbors most
likely to be fed up. How many others would have met at the laundromat
or on the play ground when they went to pick up their children.
Garner, daughter of Eric Garner who choked to death at the hands of
the New York Police, picked up a bullhorn to denounce the injustice
and brutality proliferating in images of whiteness that vilify to
either deaden or at least make malleable everything in its embrace.
wonder we aren’t permitted to see a Black woman like Erica
Garner - rising up to denounce white supremacy! And without a laugh
wonder America didn’t see those Black women in Alabama - before
they left for the polls on election day.
have lost Erica, but her story has empowered those who were around
her. Her story could empower young Black women to find their way out
of the “sunken place.” But, of course, how profitable are
not either entertainers or victims of familial sexual assaults? On
the other hand, who died for Black Americans to display our
weaknesses as if evidence of freedom from structural enslavement? It
is brave to resist the social pressure to repress the reality of
injustice and poverty, to welcome capitalism’s stranglehold on
our hearts and minds. It is a question of a commitment to sustaining
resistance - even in an atmosphere that reflects back to us our