Black-ish Just Proved (Again) That We Should Trust Black People

Photo: ABC/Ron Tom.
Last night’s black-ish was pretty light compared to other episodes of the show. Rainbow wants the kids to open up to her more after the mom of one of Junior’s friends shows her how he really behaves when she’s not around. She decides to allow them to swear in the hopes that it will encourage them to express themselves more freely. It works a little too well and Rainbow learns things about her children that she doesn’t want to know. Meanwhile, her husband Dre has jury duty.

You should know by now that even a light episode of black-ish still packs a tough pill to swallow. After trying to avoid his civic duty like everyone else, Dre finds himself passionately advocating for Antoine Jeffries, the Black defendant who is accused of stealing a shirt from a high-end boutique. The remaining 11 jurors — all of them white — and his peanut gallery of coworkers force Dre to defend his own decision to stand up for Jeffries and consider that he might be biased. But the Johnson family patriarch remains steadfast in hanging the jury, constantly offering rebuttals to their racist assumptions.

That white people might let racial biases cloud their judgment in a criminal case is 100-level social commentary on a show like black-ish. The meat of this episode is in the sudden change of heart that one of the other jurors experiences, causing her to find sufficient evidence that Jeffries is innocent. Where Dre was met with disgruntled indignation, the white woman who found it in her heart to give Jeffries a chance is met with cheers and a free dinner. She is heralded for “saving a man’s life.” This is the kind of plot twist that would normally represent the sprinkles on top of a black-ish episode. But in this case, it’s the entire cupcake and deserves some attention.

With so many white people feeling like their role in today’s political climate is only to prove that they aren’t racist against people of color, it’s great to see examples of allyship and advocacy that aren’t self-centered. But the fact that Dre was perceived by his peers as a pain in the ass for wanting to take the trial seriously while a white woman is literally applauded as a hero seems reductive. The implication here is that equality and justice are only good ideas when they come from white people. This is the narrative that simultaneously fuels the white savior complex and a reluctance to accept movements for Black lives. If nothing else, black-ish side-eyed our tendency to not trust Black people when they try to overcome their own oppression.


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