‘This Is Us’ Sheds Light on Complexity of Black Man’s Continued Struggle to Fit In After Being Adopted by White Parents

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On Tuesday night’s episode of NBC’s “This Is Us” viewers saw how Randall Pearson continues to struggle with his place in the world.

Randall, portrayed by Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown, was adopted as a baby by white couple Jack and Rebecca Pearson. The season 3 episode that aired Oct. 2 saw Randall as a teenager decline his highly-coveted spot at Howard University — a historically Black university — in order to stay home with his recently widowed mother and his grieving fraternal twin siblings, Kate and Kevin, who are white.

And as the series hops between the past and present, 2018 Randall was also grappling with where he belongs. Randall and his wife Beth, who is Black, have adopted Deja, a Black teen, into their family with their two biological daughters. When Deja complains about how white her school is, Randall drives her from suburban New Jersey to a dilapidated Philadelphia apartment building, where his biological father used to live. But while Deja gets along with the girls there, a tenant who was a friend of Randall’s birth father, William, comes down on him.

This is Us
(Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

“We are not a ‘we,'” Chichi tells him. “You are not one of us. You brought your daughter to come and play here. But instead of sitting and chatting and getting to know the place you spent the whole day seeing its problems trying to fix them. I’m not even sure you know why. We are not our problems.”

Randall later told his wife at the premiere of his brother’s movie that “stuff’s always complicated for me” as far as where he “fits in” and “comes off to certain people.”

“It’s either I’m trying too hard or I’m not trying hard enough,” he said. “I could never get it right.”

To add a further blow, as he sat down to watch the film with his extended family, Kevin said that their sister Kate told him she’d be the only one who could “pass on a piece of dad” in the family.

Fans who caught the episode began sharing their own thoughts on the difficulty of Randall finding his place in life.

“Randall is in very confusing position. He can’t find true acceptance anywhere. Too black for his white family not black enough for black people in the community. Frustrating. #ThisIsUs.”

“‘I could never get it right’ no Randall, those people can’t get it right. you are perfect!!! #ThisIsUs.”

“Forgot that Randall wasn’t there when Kate said she was the only one who could pass on a piece of Jack. That comment kind of irked me, too. Porr Randall’s being told that he’s not part of William’s community, and now he’s basically been told he’s not part of Jack’s. #ThisIsUs.”

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