ABC’s ‘Black-ish’ Goes Full Black Lives Matter in Episode: ‘The System Is Rigged Against Us’

Patrick Wymore/ABC via AP
Patrick Wymore/ABC via AP

Wednesday’s episode of Black-ish confronts police brutality in America, the criminal justice system, and the difficult discussions and decisions every black parent must face in a country where “the system is rigged against us.”

The extended episode is centered on breaking news reports about a looming grand jury decision regarding a fictional police brutality case involving a black teenager. Viewers are treated to a debate between Dre (Anthony Anderson) and his wife Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) about how to explain the decision not to indict to their four young children.

This “is not a Black Lives Matter episode,” Black-ish creator Kenya Barris told The Washington Post. “I’m supportive of that movement. My personal politics are not part of this particular episode. I don’t want to ostracize anyone or limit anyone’s entry point into enjoying this.”

Perhaps the most contentious segment of the episode came after news of a non-indictment, which resulted (factiously) in riots being shown on screen.

“Why are all these people so mad?” young Jack (Miles Brown) asks. That question is followed by an impassioned dialogue between Rainbow and Dre in the presence of their children.

“Let’s say they listen to the cops and get into the car. Look what happened to Freddie Grey,” Dre says of the Baltimore man who died in police custody.

“Yeah, and what if they make it all the way to the station? Remember Sandra Bland?” says Pops (Lawrence Fishburne) about the Texas woman who committed suicide in a holding cell in Waller County, Texas.

“And let’s say they do make it to trial,” Dre continues. “You see where that gets us. Don’t you get it, Rainbow? The system is rigged against us.”

After Dre uses nonfiction instances to prove a fictional point, the monologue then turns to “Hope,” which is the episode’s title.

Dre describes the “fear” that black Americans had after Obama was elected. “Tell me you weren’t worried that someone was going to snatch that hope away from us like they always do,” he says.

“That is the real world,” he continues. “And our children need to know that that’s the world that they live in.”

The episode is already receiving positive reviews from liberal press and even Black Lives Matter organizers, namely DeRay Mckesson.

“With Police Brutality Episode, ‘black-ish’ Shows How Sitcoms Can Still Matter,” reads one New York Times article.

“Black-ish and How to Talk to Kids About Police Brutality,” is how The Atlantic summed up the episode.

One of the show’s cast members, Zoey (Yara Shahidi) tweeted the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter, thanking a viewer for her praise of the episode.

And this is the tweet Shahidi sent during the show’s broadcast:

The much-acclaimed episode of Black-ish does not, however, shine a spotlight on the damage Black Lives Matter sympathizers have caused, like the 30 Baltimore businesses and buildings, including a senior living facility, that were burned to the ground last April by hundreds of thugs enraged over the police-involved death of Freddie Gray.

Nor does this Black-ish episode (or any other) highlight that black people commit a catastrophically high amount of crime, disproportionately, while representing a small share of the overall population.

Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter @jeromeehudson.


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