This week’s episode of black-ish deals with the stereotype that black folks can’t swim.
The Johnson’s neighbors are having weekly pool parties and not inviting them. Are they being racist? Hands down the best part of each episode of black-ish takes place about 4 minutes in right after the opening credit. This is the moment when the “racial” issue of the episode is revealed. The wonderful part of this storytelling tactic is that it explains the stereotype in less than 3 minutes is entertaining, educational and…funny. Dre’s voiceover begins
“The reason my lovely wife is giving me the stink eye is because, I just brought up the ugly stereotype that Black Folks can’t swim. And the truth is, there is a legacy of black folks not swimming in America. During our 300 year long unpaid internship we weren’t encouraged to take refreshing dips.”
Dre’s opening monologue succinctly gives a history of swimming connected to defunded public pools in cities after white flight and even tells the true story of a pool being drained “after Dorothy Dandridge, the Beyonce of her day, dipped her toe into the pool.”
The first storyline involves Dre dealing with the neighbors and the pool situation and it is hilarious. The second storyline involves my three favorite members of the family, the twins — Jack (Miles Brown) and Diane (Marsai Martin)— and Grandma played expertly by Jenifer Lewis.
I just need to stop a moment and sing the praises of Jenifer Lewis. She is a distinguished theater actor who performed her one woman show “The Diva is Dismissed” at The Public Theater in NYC and had a cabaret show where she blows the roof off the house with her number..
Baby.. Black Don’t Crack.
I wish Jenifer Lewis had her own spin-off show. Every time she is on-screen she just shines. Grandma Johnson is prejudiced and overbearing, with a heart of gold. I love watching her spar with Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) about her vegetarian non-cooking skills and “smother” her baby Dre with love.
The final storyline involves the older kids Junior (Marcus Scribner), Zoey (Yara Shahidi), and Rainbow. Even though black-ish sticks to the catty teenager stereotype, this week there is a twist that was super endearing. Rainbow has my favorite line of the episode in a conversation with her teenaged son and daughter.
“I just don’t want how much you like yourself to be based on how many “likes” you get.”
TV veteran Wanda Sykes totally steals all the scenes she’s in, and the annoying next door neighbor Jeanine is expertly played by Nicole Sullivan, who you may remember from MAD TV back in the day.
I have to give a shout out to the main costume designer Stacey Beverly and the Key Hair stylist Tonya Cryer for their work on this show. Their work is outstanding. Zoey’s hair this episode was a total work of art.
black-ish always leaves its audience thinking about race with a smile on our face and in this world…we so need to smile.