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Shows like 'Black-ish' perpetuate racist stereotypes
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By Andrea Peyser
April 6, 2015

Shows like 'Black-ish' perpetuate racist stereotypes

This is racism — served with a smile.

“Black-ish,” the hit freshman ABC comedy series that features appealing characters in dumb situations, most of them African-Americans, I believe promotes ugly racial bigotry.

But don’t ask me. Ask Donald Trump.

“How is ABC Television allowed to have a show entitled ‘Black-ish’? ” the real-estate developer and reality-TV babe, a white guy, tweeted in October. “Can you imagine the furor of a show, ‘White-ish’! Racism at highest level?’’

If you won’t listen to Trump, who focused on the show’s jaw-dropping title, then read a petition posted on Change.org urging ABC to cancel “Black-ish.’’

“We find it racist, racially damaging and offensive based on the concept that nonstereotypical black people are less their race than others, that hip hop culture is all blacks are supposed to embrace, and that culture and race are one and the same,’’ the petition reads.

Or, ask my kid.

When she attended a private school in Brooklyn, my daughter’s best friend was a black girl. I don’t think that my child, who is white, even noticed the superficial racial differences between her and her pal. That is, until the day that her fourth-grade teacher, a white man, lectured the inseparable girls, in earshot of their parents, telling them that they must never forget that their skins are of different hues.

I think that he meant well. But as I watched, an expression of utter bewilderment overtook my daughter’s face as her innocence was stripped away.

Or, ask a barista.

Many Starbucks drink-slingers last month annoyed the coffee-selling chain’s customers nationwide by writing the words “Race Together’’ on cups, using a condescending, corporate-generated slogan in an effort to spark unnecessary and unhelpful conversations about race relations.

“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.

In the world of “Black-ish,” well-to-do black people are not black at all. They’re “black-ish.’’ All this is played for yuks.

I believe that the majority of Americans have moved beyond being punch lines in sick ethnic jokes. But I don’t make TV shows.

In “Black-ish,’’ Anthony Anderson, one of the show’s co-executive producers, plays Andre “Dre’’ Johnson Sr., a black version of the white, race-obsessed Archie Bunker character from the 1970s TV sitcom “All in the Family.’’ A successful advertising executive, Dre is married to a doctor, Rainbow, or “Bow’’ (Tracee Ellis Ross), whose mother is black and father white, which Dre apparently sees as a shortcoming. In several cringe-worthy scenes, he rubs his wife’s mixed-race parentage in her face.

Laurence Fishburne, also a show co-executive producer, plays Dre’s curmudgeonly father, Earl “Pops’’ Johnson.

Dre and Bow are raising four kids in a grand house in an upper-middle-class Los Angeles neighborhood dominated by white people. And while Dre, who grew up in more humble surroundings, tries desperately to remind the children of their racial identity, his younger kids either don’t seem to realize, or think it’s no big deal, that Barack Obama is the first biracial president of the United States.

In the first episode, Dre’s 12-year-old son, Andre Jr. (Marcus Scribner), asks his father for a bar mitzvah on his 13th birthday, like those of his rich-kid friends, although he isn’t Jewish. He also wants to be called the less-black-sounding “Andy’’ and, rather than play basketball, he wants to go out for field hockey, which his dad savages as a sport for white girls. In another episode, Dre’s 15-year-old daughter, Zoey (Yara Shahidi), gets dumped by her white, French boyfriend, coincidentally named Andre. But she’s delighted to learn that Andre dumped her not because of racial differences, but because he found her “shallow.’’

Hilarity ensues as Dre, reluctantly, accepts his kids’ choices.

This season, Fox debuted the hit TV drama series “Empire’’ about a clan of African-Americans whose members got rich from the family’s music company. Patriarch Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), is a former drug dealer who worries that his three sons are spoiled rotten. But he’s not plagued by the kind of existential turmoil that grips Dre.

ABC brass have yet to announce if “Black-ish’’ will see a second season. But a TV insider assured me that the show will be back. (“Empire’’ has already been renewed.)

We’re almost certain to see more racist drivel masquerading as social commentary.

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