Black-ish Proves That Money & Your Squad Really Don't Mix

One of the many reasons black-ish is such a perceptive show is that it never restricts itself to one conversation. It leans into the entropy of racial issues — the comedy may be clean, incisive one-liners, but the topics are as messy as the modern political landscape. With last night's episode, "I'm A Survivor," the show peered at economic mobility in the Black community. (In fact, a recent piece in The New York Times pegged to the 2017 Golden Globes explored how Black television shows — black-ish in particular — manage to discuss the topic.) The show repeatedly tackles the intersection of class and race, but last night's episode looped in another hairy topic: friendship.

It's a reunion episode of sorts. Dre (Anthony Anderson) reunites with his Compton childhood crew at a funeral for his friend Tony, who died in his sleep. The rest of the crew isn't doing as well as Dre is. Or, at least, they aren't as financially secure, which begins to make Dre uncomfortable. To soothe his guilt, he becomes the benefactor of his friend group. He hosts game night. He buys diapers for T-Will (Affion Crockett), a new father. He even gives away a bike that belongs to Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross).

"They need me! You wouldn't understand," he hollers at Bow. (She's understandably perturbed that her bike is gone.) Junior (Marcus Scribner) diagnoses the issue as "survivor's remorse." But it's more than that — the episode asks the question: how do you pay tribute to your community when your status seemingly cleaves you from it? The world does not associate upper middle class life with the Black community, so Dre struggles to find a way to resolve these two facets of his life. Dre's efforts to "save" his friends don't bridge the divide: they widen it. By wielding his money as power, Dre reinforces the idea that money is, in fact, power, and his friends do not have it.

So they don't need his money (or his diapers or his bike or his television.) "We don't need your stuff. We just want to be your boys, man!" his buddy Sha (Faizon Love) says. Perhaps that's the salve for economic mobility's rash — friendship. Talk to your boys. Talk to your neighbor. And, for God's sake, don't give away your wife's bike. She needs that.
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