New Girl Takes On Police Racial Profiling

Photo: Sam Urdank/FOX.
New Girl might be a sitcom, but on last night's episode — "Par 5" — it finally addressed a topic that's apparently been a long time coming. Ever since Winston Bishop (Lamorne Morris) decided to become a police officer last season, viewers have been tweeting to Morris about playing a Black cop. Morris knew it was a charged issue, and he requested that the New Girl writing staff address all of the recent incidents involving police racial profiling. During "Par 5," which Morris co-wrote, the show managed to use comedy to touch on the serious topic of race relations and law enforcement. It was extremely timely given what happened in South Carolina yesterday.

Winston, Coach, and Nick are out to lunch discussing Winston's streak of bad luck with women. They notice a gorgeous woman named KC sitting nearby, and despite some awkward attempts at conversation, she's interested in Winston. He asks if she wants to go to lunch, but she invites him to a rally to protest the police in the park, saying they can grab something to eat after. Winston balks and says they should just get lunch, then backs away so she doesn't read the large LAPD logo on the back of his T-shirt.

Later, the two meet for lunch (Winston now in plain clothes), and two police officers recognize Winston, saying they'll see him at work. He lies and tells KC that they're all strippers, hence the uniforms. 

Back at the loft, Nick and Winston have a conversation about what happened. "I can't believe I didn't tell her I was a cop. With everything that's been going on, I feel like she wouldn't respect me," Winston tells Nick. "I understand where she's coming from. When I was a kid, we had to run from the police. Even if we did nothing wrong, it was just out of habit." 

Although the words are coming out of his character's mouth, Lamorne Morris told The New York Times that this story came directly from his own life. "I grew up on the south side of Chicago, where we really did run from the police when we saw them, so this issue has always been on my mind."

The conversation with Nick ends up being surprisingly frank and candid about the differing experiences they had growing up in the same town, attending the same schools, but with Nick being white and Winston Black. "Why haven't you ever told me?" Nick responds when Winston says he had to run from the police as a child. 

"You wouldn't understand it," Coach interjects. He says he's going to weigh in "as the only other Black man in this loft," but before he can make a worthwhile point, he leaves to get "race talk snacks." That was perhaps as far as New Girl could delve into such a serious issue as a comedy, but Morris provided some additional information about what viewers didn't see during the scene to The Times

"There was some stuff I wrote that we couldn't use. I had written a line for Winston to say to Nick, something like: 'I'm Black, and I’m a police officer, and as I sit here, comfortable in this loft with you, my white buddy, black people are being slaughtered.'" Morris also mentions that he was the only Black person in the writers' room that day. 

In the end, the episode achieved Morris' goal, which was to stress that when these horrific instances of brutality occur, we can't think of the police as one single entity. "I have friends that are police officers, and they're great individuals. When one officer does something wrong, law enforcement as a group takes the fall, because the media attention is so intense now. I'm old enough to know not everyone's like that, but I'm smart enough to know you still have to be careful," Morris says.

That's reflected in the episode's outcome, when Winston decides to tell KC the truth: that he's a black police officer. "I'm a good guy; that's all that matters," he declares. "I'm proud of what I do. I work with a lot of great people, and I want to be one of them." 

KC, of course, is more upset that Winston lied, but what's important is that New Girl managed to address a topic that both fans and one of its stars have been wanting the show to take on. "Even though it's a comedy, and it's television, I said, ‘We have to say something,'" Morris told TVLine. We're glad they did.

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