If you’re unfamiliar with the New York Post’s Andrea Peyser, then, A) you’re lucky and B) you’re in for an infuriating treat. Peyser is one of those rage columnists who’s famous for trolling and getting under people’s skin. So what she said about Black-ish isn’t surprising – Peyser quotes Donald Trump’s outrage about the show as an indictment of Black-ish‘s racial politics which is enough to dispel her argument immediately, by the way – but it’s worth talking about:
“Black-ish’’ brings about the same kind of racial lunacy, making people of all skin colors appear biased, clueless and, most of all, racist. The show presents tortured portrayals of African-Americans with money, pushing the false notion that affluent blacks become middle-class members of the bourgeoisie — folks derided as “bougie’’ (pronounced bhoo-shee) in the show’s parlance.
Basically, Peyser thinks the show is racist because it portrays race. The show portrays the idiosyncrasies of navigating a White, middle-class world while being a family of color, but for Peyser, acknowledging race in America is tantamount to some mythical “reverse racism” that only subjugated people are capable of. Here’s the issue with privilege – and let’s not get it twisted; Peyser is writing and speaking from a place of ultimate privilege. Peyser lives in an America where dealing with race and racism is a choice. For people of color, that privileges doesn’t exist.
At its heart, Black-ish is a sitcom about navigating a White America that wasn’t created with the Black family in mind. The show’s family deals with racism, identity and navigating an America with which there is no blueprint for their success. While the first episode of the show was admittedly heavy-handed, the subsequent episodes have simply been about a Black family. And for Black families, dealing with race is as normal as a trip to Chuck E’ Cheese’s. What Peyser and the privileged don’t want to acknolwege is that racism is as American as baseball. Scratch that: racism has been in America for hundreds of years longer than baseball has.
You know what else reeks of privilege? The ability for the dad in Modern Family to be a bumbling idiot and it not reflect the totality of the White parental experience. But since there are so few other episodes portraying Black families in America, Anderson’s role as a bumbling dad falls outside of the precedent set by Peter Griffin or Homer Simpson. He’s a bumbling “Black dad” who stands in for all Black dads, making them all appear like idiots because that’s how portrayals of Blackness in popular culture works. But Black-ish is unafraid of what people like Peyser think about it. If the Black family reality is too difficult to deal with, then the reality needs to change. And that requires changing the reality, not the storytellers.
It’s a privileged perspective to be angry when subjugated people acknowledge their subjugation. That’s Peyser’s stance: the show talks about race and racism and she doesn’t want to be bothered with it. She uses words like “sick” and “tortured” to speak about the humor on Black-ish . These words reflect her own discomfort with being presented with racism – especially a Black family turning racism and stress into comedy. If there’s one thing that privileged people hate more than racism that they don’t want to deal with, it’s Blackness turning that racism, flipping it on its head and turning it into comedy. That makes people uncomfortable.
Black-ish isn’t a show about race. Black-ish is a show about a Black family in America. And race is inherently part of that story. It’s not the show’s fault that being Black in America means facing the ingrained racism of this country. When I drive my car, I don’t choose to drive as a Black man in the way America defines me. I drive my car as a man, but America’s definition of my Blackness means I drive my car with a constant fear that I’m getting pulled over and murdered by police. Being a Black family in America means dealing with identity, racism and double standards. These aren’t choices we make as Black people. These are decisions made by the country we live in. Every. Single. Day. And a show about a Black family in America will deal with race. Sorry, not sorry.
David Dennis, Jr. is a writer and editor based out of Atlanta (but it’s still WHO DAT all day). He’s currently an editor at Moguldom Media whose writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Smoking Section, Uproxx, Playboy, CNN Money, The Source, Complex.com and wherever people argue about things on the Internet. He’s a New Orleans Press Club award recipient and has been cited in Best Music Writing. He’s also a proud alum of Davidson College.