‘Black-ish’ expands reach with deep dive on controversy
Last updated 9:36 p.m. ET, Feb. 26 2016
When parents feel like they are stuck in a broken system, how do they offer hope to their children?
The ABC comedy Black-ish grappled with that question in an episode about police brutality that aired Feb. 24. In it, three generations of an African-American family watch TV and wait to hear whether a police officer who Tasered a black, unarmed man dozens of times would be indicted. The discussions mirror those that families across the country must have had in the wake of the grand jury decisions in 2014 over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York.
TV parents Rainbow and Dre Johnson struggle with whether they should shield their youngest children from the racism that exists within the justice system and let them know that the system is often rigged against minorities.
The youngest boy wonders whether he could be Tasered. Rainbow tries to reassure him, saying he would be fine if he follows officers’ orders. His grandmother also chimes in saying there are only seven words to know when stopped by police: “Yes, sir. No, sir. And thank you, sir.” Dre (with help from his father) knocks down that reassurance citing the cases of Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, both of whom died in police custody.
In the process, the episode prompted real folks to have conversations that reflected the deep ones tackled on screen. A former police officer says while police brutality happens, it’s not as widespread as the public may be led to believe. Readers on Facebook talked about whose responsibility it is to end it and how to tackle racism head-on.
Read their comments below, then share your views.
Comment from Facebook edited for clarity and grammar:
This was a great episode of Black-ish. It was truthful and profound. I’m not a fan of the show, but this one resonated with me and my husband. This episode spoke volumes! We aren’t anti-police, but the racism that continues in this country has to stop, and it’s up to the public to speak out any way we can to say, “Stop!”
— Kathy Paxton
Letter to the editor:
In the recent USA TODAY article about the show Black-ish and the episode on police brutality, Anthony Anderson, who plays father Andre “Dre” Johnson, states he was a victim of police brutality when he was a teenager. We have no further insight into these incidents (“‘Black-ish’ confronts police brutality in new episode“).
As a retired police officer with 33 years on the street, I can acknowledge that incidents of overreaction and police brutality do occur, and there are people who do not belong in police work. But they are the exception, not the norm.
From a police officer’s view, when a subject fails to acknowledge your authority, you are forced to take a hands-on approach. It’s usually swift and sometimes violent, but that doesn’t make it police brutality. Rule of thumb: as resistance stops, use of force diminishes.
White, black, yellow or brown, the best way to avoid a confrontation is to comply with the officer until the situation gets sorted out and adrenaline subsides. It’s called, “Don’t be stupid.”
Karl Grill; Alexandria, Va.
Comments from Facebook are edited for clarity and grammar:
The beauty of today’s police is that they are equal opportunity. They beat blacks, browns, Asians and whites. They are no longer your friends. Black parents are not the only ones who have to explain the senseless brutality that some police departments seem to enjoy dishing out.
— Rosa Washington
Don’t break the law, and you won’t get shot. Period.
— Jennie Cooper Franklin
I was deeply moved watching this episode. It was truthful. I am white and have lived through years of supporting, educating and working with individuals from diverse backgrounds as a teacher and a psychologist. We have to work together to keep hope alive. When one of us suffers, all of us suffer. This episode speaks to all of us to stop all racism, and to raise all of us so we can all feel hopeful and have real opportunities. I want to thank the creators, producers and the cast of Black-ish who have told it like it is. Keep the stories coming.
— Linda Blakeley