In the first-ever episode of Black-ish told from the perspective and voice of Rainbow, the Johnson family matriarch is forced to deal with an identity crisis when Junior brings home his first girlfriend, who is white. Initially, Bow tries to deny that she’s bothered by Megan’s race. She has always claimed to “not see color,” and her husband Dre is grateful that his wife is finally opening up to the realities of our country’s racial dynamics. I understood why Bow is immediately thrown off by Junior’s new love interest. But I was nervous about how the show would explain her position. Contrary to popular myths, Black women as a whole are not intolerant of interracial relationships. Our problem is that way too many of the conversations about interracial dating are framed at the expense of Black women. So much of the rhetoric involves the superiority of white women (in the episode, Dre literally curtsies to a white lady at his job), and the inferiority of Black women (after he and Dre's boss, a Black woman, reprimands them for being unproductive, Charlie admits that Black women’s attitudes are the reason he keeps some “snow” around). But the theme of last night’s Black-ish isn’t interracial dating. It's about the biracial identity that is born as a result of those relationships. Bow's narration provides a necessary history lesson on biracial politics, specifically Black biracial politics, and how it has developed in American history.
We run through all of Bow’s awkward phases of racial-identity building, from her high school years as a Clueless-eque valley girl to her flamboyant fly-girl persona in college. Ultimately, it is Bow’s own unsettled sense of identity that brings her to tears at the thought of Junior preferring white women. But a conversation with her father at the end of the episode brings some personal clarity to Bow and some much-needed nuance to conversations about being biracial. He admits that he has always considered his daughter to be a Black woman because of how they were treated as Bow was growing up. He knew that the outside world had already stamped her as Black. This scene really struck a chord with viewers, even those who aren’t biracial, for its honest commentary on race.
No matter where people fall on the broad spectrum of Blackness, and how much personal work they've done to honor all parts of their identity, some decisions are already made for you. We love Black-ish because these are the details the show refuses to look past.