How Blackish Eloquently Addressed Police Brutality

As if COVID-19 hasn't struck a gloomy nerve with Americans and the rest of the world, the United States is stricken with more sour headlines as another senseless death dominates the television landscape.  Another unfortunate incident with police brutality has America polarized in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minnesota due to an aggressive arrest leading to tragedy.  Protests are turning violent and destructive across America, and sadly America is reminded of so many senseless tragedies involving violence with black men involved with white figures of authority and so many names sadly burned into our brains from the media.

Michael Brown's 2014 shooting left Ferguson, Missouri in ruins following the verdict.  Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman made the phrase "stand your ground" notorious in 2012 in Virginia.  April 29, 1992 stands in infamy not only as Sublime's melancholy song discussing riots, but catalyzing the day South Central LA erupted in riots following the Rodney King verdict against the officers involved in his brutal beating arrest.  And 1967 lives on in infamy as several cities across the nation erupted in uprising/riots in the summer during the Civil Rights movement.  Blackish managed to addressed this awful issue on February 24, 2016 in a landmark episode titled "Hope."

Known for bravely tackling social issues, Blackish handled the issue inside one set centered on the Johnson living room.  Jack and Diane (Miles Brown, Marsai Martin) played a less prominent role in the episode as Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) felt the subject matter was too intense for the young children.  The action centered on the teens and adults and varying perspectives.  In a wise creative decision, Blackish chose not to focus on a real incident but a fictional one as they were not addressing a headline grabbing story but the social effect on the American Public.  Hope was not about the news, but how the African American community is affected by said headlines.

Perspectives of course remained divided and oppositional, and the Johnson household threw curveballs defying most stereotypes of the established characters.  The usually out-of-touch Junior (Marcus Schribius) surprised the audience and his family by being well-informed on the subject and presenting well-stated arguments.  After Bow stated nearly every 75% of the arrested perpetrators are armed and minimize it as doing their job, Junior countered by stating as a doctor, she would be a failure if she lost 25% of her patients.  Citing his recent readings from the published "Between The World And Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Junior held his ground and questioned right and wrong with police brutality.

Bow's unitarian approach was as expected as she simply wants a safe world without jaded possibilities for her children.  The shock factor came when oft-nemesis mother-in-law Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) sided with part of her views as they addressed what Junior should do if he encounters a conflict with police.  Both stated the seven words he needs to get to know are "Yes sir.  No Sir.  And Thank You Sir."  Not to concede to defeat but to keep him out of harm's way.   This exchange deepened both characters like Junior as their driving intentions as mothers was to keep their children safe and help them avoid putting themselves in a position of conflict if possible.

Dre (Anthony Anderson) delivered a powerful message as expected.  However, his stance forgoed his usual combative nature on race relations in favor of fear, something his character seldom reveals to the extremes he did in Hope.  Bow's complimentary factor to Dre is she balances his hotheaded nature and often offers a guiding balance to get him back to ground zero.  However, he cited a landmark event in history as President Obama was inaugurated as his emotions wavered between excitement and fear as not only was it monumental to have our first African American President.  But a split second of fear as it was known a target is on every president, and losing the first African American president would be devastating.  This fear is felt among any demographic over losing any president, and for the community, the fear of something happening to Obama remained as he represented America's progression.  Dre's fears could be felt by any demographic, which made Hope so brilliant as it hit all of us.

Earl's defensive nature perhaps seemed coarse, but Blackish also explored Earl's generation as a baby boomer who horrifically lived the Civil Rights movement as well as the continued conflict the African American community endures more than 5 decades later.  His statement was not meant to put down police when he stated "they are damn thugs," but rather communicate a lifetime of fearing how an encounter could change someone's life.  Pops expressed his anger, yet avoided aggression or suggesting violence against an enemy, properly towing a sensitive line.  Shockingly, Yara Shahidi delivered the last punch in viewpoints which tied all in a fitting connection during this well-constructed episode.

Zoe appeared to have as much purpose as a houseplant throughout the first two thirds of the episode, huddled up with her siblings or escaping an intense conversation.  When finally confronted with her disengagement, she addressed her feelings appropriately as she stated she didn't know how to feel as she wasn't educated enough to contribute to the conversation.  And the remaining teens/adults were too passionate to give her space to address her stance.  Very well stated for a young adult, as Zoe represented so many in her generation who are entering the adult world and deserve the space to learn and explore.  When heated discussions ensue, everyone is expected to be at their sharpest and Zoe knew her deck was under-stacked.  Rather than fluffing or pretending, Zoe exhibited honesty and would not speak till she had valid discussions or solutions.

Police brutality is an ongoing issue which scars the American landscape.  It wakes up the country's demons with racial divides, as well as the regressive feeling society will never get past differences.  Where Blackish succeeded with Hope was it did not reflect on a current headline in a sensationalistic grab for eyeballs, but rather an exploration of the social and emotional issues.  Where America should reflect on this episode is when they are engulfed in emotions from the latest headlines from George Floyd, they should rewatch this episode and examine how America should heal vs. remain divided.  This week's headlines leave America feeling trapped Between Heaven and Hell in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, and America with it instead of feeling hopeless.  Time heals, and thankfully Blackish is successful in syndication and Hope will remain to help America move past.

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