The synopsis sounds pretty academic, but really, the show did get into a rather in-depth look at how the word and its usage has changed over time. Andre’s parents saying how they don’t use it (when in fact they do to differentiate themselves from other black people). Andre claims his generation reclaimed the word and turned it into a positive. Charlie wants to use it just to rhyme words in his rap bars. Curtis just aligns his viewpoints with Andre to keep his job. Zoey’s non-black friends use it as a cool word without meaning. Mr. Stevens just wants to be able to say it (so much so that he gave money to the National Negro College Fund just so he could say “Negro”).
It even got into the common kitchen table talk of which non-black races can say the word. It’s hilarious how specific (and how true to actual conversations) it got, with Charlie saying that certain Hispanic people might have a pass to say it (like Rosie Perez and other certain Puerto Ricans, Dominican Americans, etc.) and how other Hispanic people can’t (like Jennifer Lopez, Hispanic people who might check “White Hispanic” on the census survey). In short, any part of the N-word debate that has been tackled in barbershops or living rooms around the country was addressed in this episode.
The end of the episode was particularly thought-provoking when, in an effort to get Jack back in school after being expelled, he told the school board that they can’t pin all of their fears and aggressions about the word on one boy who was only repeating what he heard in a song. Andre said something I hadn’t even thought about; how the backlash certain people get for using the word, like Paula Deen and Quentin Tarantino, also garners them tons of support and love, really. Meanwhile, a kid like Jack gets vilified, even though he doesn’t know what the word means. Like how Josh said, the convoluted system behind using or not using the N-word doesn’t work.
At the end of the episode, we’ve went in full circle. Andre is much more evolved on his original standpoint of him being able to use the N-word. He already knew the word was completely wrong and he still believes in the idea that his generation reclaimed the word from it’s horrible past, but, after learning how Jack, Zoey, and even Zoey’s friends not knowing what the word meant, Andre realized that it’s more important for the younger generation to learn the history of it so they can decide for themselves whether they want to use it or not.
Last thought: If this first episode is any indication as to how hard-hitting the second season of black-ish is going to be, then this is going to be one amazing batch of television. I can’t wait for the next episode.
Don’t just take my word for it, as LeVar Burton would say: Write your opinions on the episode in the comments section below!