‘Black-ish’ Delivers on the ‘N-Word Episode’

The cast of Black-ish, front row: Marsai Martin and Miles Brown. Back row: Laurence Fishburne, Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross.  ABC/BOB D’AMICO
The cast of Black-ish, front row: Marsai Martin and Miles Brown. Back row: Laurence Fishburne, Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross.
ABC/BOB D’AMICO

Promising an edgier sophomore season, Black-ish kicks off season 2 with the highly anticipated “n-word episode.” Whether or not it sparks a national conversation about the historically divisive issue remains to be seen, but it certainly delivers on the laughs.

During a school talent show, Jack (Miles Brown)—aka “Party Time,” the youngest of the Johnson boys—performs Kanye West’s “Gold Digger,” and when he raps along to the famous line, “Now, I ain’t saying she a gold digger, but she ain’t messing with no broke niggas,” the predominantly white audience reacts with shock and extreme discomfort. Jack’s snarky twin sister, Diane (Marsai Martin), quips, “I begged him to go with the radio edit.”

As a result, Jack’s parents, Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross), must defend Jack from possible expulsion from school for using “the word” in a school that has a zero-tolerance policy regarding hateful speech (a policy that Bow drafted, by the way). But first they have to figure out where they stand on the issue.

For many fans of the show, Black-ish has consistently succeeded in plucking real arguments that many black families have over Thanksgiving dinner or at family reunions and expounding upon them on TV for our entertainment and amusement, and this episode, “The Word,” is no exception.

First, the episode explores some familiar arguments. Dre defends the use of the word by black people as our birthright when he says, “Jewish kids get to go to Israel. Black kids get to say [the n-word].” Bow is against the use of the word by anyone, and Dre’s white boss wants to know why he can cut a check to the United Negro College Fund but he can’t refer to black people as “Negroes.” No matter which camp you’re in, whether the Paul Mooney school (saying the word “makes my teeth white”), the more nuanced “just not in mixed company” camp or team “never, ever,” Black-ish has got you covered.

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Source: The Root | AKILAH GREEN

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