The creator of the new ABC sitcom, black-ish, responded to critics who say he is trying to define what it means to be Black in America, while also speaking up about the dangers of institutional racism.
ABC is only weeks away from premiering the new series on Sept. 24 and the production team anxiously waits to see how the American public will receive the show.
The series follows a Black father’s struggle to establish a sense of cultural identity in the midst of all the assimilation that tends to take place today.
Kenya Barris, the show’s creator, recently sat down with the Huffington Post and defined the term “black-ish” while also addressing the show’s critics.
“I would say it’s an adjective, and I would even say it’s a dynamic adjective,” Barris said of the term.
That term is exactly what sparked some controversy over the show. Social media users have voiced concerns that the show was trying to define what it means to be Black.
“I think some of the controversy has been around the idea that some people think that we’re trying to define what ‘Black’ is, and it couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “I think it’s a really inclusive word much less than an exclusionary word, in terms of [how] it really speaks towards the homogenized society we’re living in today… If you look at the main character, Andre Johnson, from his eyes, he’s raising kids and a family in a time where he looks around at his kids, and he feels like their idea of being ‘Black,’ from what he remembers growing up, is different what it was for him.”
He said that Johnson, who is played by actor Anthony Anderson, is confused by his children’s decision to go to Macklemore concerts and start skateboarding.
“The ideology of what he saw, growing up, to be Black, there’s a little bit of a filtered, subtracted, watered-down version of that,” he added. “And so they’re kind of ‘black-ish’ in that version. But at the same time, he looks around and sees that there’s an additive version when he looks and sees a lot of the cultural impact that Black culture has had on what America is today, [how it] has spread beyond our particular race.”
Barris hopes that America will focus on the bigger picture and see what the show is really doing not only through its narrative, but simply through its existence.
As many stars have discussed lately, race is still a huge factor in the shows and actors who make it in Hollywood.
Barris aid that Hollywood is still home to the type of institutional racism that is often more problematic than blatant prejudice.
“Dave Chappelle has this great joke of how he doesn’t [like] this sort [of] racism in Hollywood where it’s behind closed doors,” Barris said. “He likes that old Southern, fine-brewed-to-perfection racism, where it’s just in your face. And it’s something more dangerous when it’s not as malicious or done on purpose, when it’s more institutional. Because they don’t get that they’re doing it, and it’s not being done on purpose.”
Black-ish will air at 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 24 on ABC and will also feature Hollywood veterans Tracee Ellis Ross and Laurence Fishburne along with Anderson.