Never let it be said that Black-ish isn’t willing to tackle the big issues. Last week the Johnson family discussed the biggest possible topic (God); this week they went for something a little closer to home: the end of the Obama era. Amidst all the back-and-forth about the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it’s easy to forget that no matter who wins, the end result will be another white president. Dre Johnson, for one, wants to make sure that Obama’s departure doesn’t equal a rolling back of all the strides black America made during Obama’s presidency. In order to do that, he’s going to ensure the election of another black president, albeit on a much smaller scale. Junior, you see, is running for class president.
Don’t let Dre’s hokey nostalgia slideshow of Obama family photos fool you; the Johnson family patriarch has a serious understanding of the significance of the United States’ first black president. As Dre sees it, Obama is a long-awaited high on a continuum of black electoral politics that begins in 1869 with the 15th Amendment giving black Americans the right to vote, goes through the failures of Reconstruction and the dominance of poll taxes and violent voter suppression for the next century. It crests with the 24th Amendment in 1964 (banning poll taxes and other suppression measures) and Obama’s iconic first election in 2008, but unfortunately remains in flux thanks to multiple voter ID laws passed in 2011. Dre doesn’t mention that the problem is even worse than that, thanks to the Supreme Court striking down provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2014, a decision which has led to multiple struggles with voter ID laws this year alone. Dre’s conclusion, one shared by many Americans, is that despite the glorious highs of the Obama era, black Americans’ position in the culture still feels tenuous, like it can easily be ripped away. That’s why this election is important, he says, and of course on one level he’s referring to the real-life battle between Clinton and Trump (where one candidate doesn’t have the best relations with or support from minorities) but also, more literally, to Junior’s high school race. The latter might be the tougher fight when all is said and done, given that Junior’s preparation for the election so far mostly includes deciding which pair of elf ears looks more realistic.
Meanwhile, Bow picks up the mail and finds two surprises: a new issue of Black Braids (apparently belonging to Pops, who no longer feels the need to deny his guilty pleasures) and a notice that the location of their polling place has changed. The latter is no shock to Pops, who takes constant switches like that as evidences that elections are rigged, and thus doesn’t vote. Bow can’t believe this, but Pops isn’t alone in his beliefs. Johan (Daveed Diggs) also believes that elections are rigged; how else do you explain Bernie Sanders not winning the Democratic nomination? As Bow points out, the explanation for that is easy: Hillary got more votes. Johan isn’t buying it, and for a second he and his sister become an exact mirror of a debate that has occurred identically over and over ad infinitum across leftist Twitter since the end of the Democratic primary.
As it turns out, Jack also shares his grandfather and uncle’s cynicism thanks to the electoral process, based solely on his experience with an election for a new classroom pet. According to Jack, the choice is between a parrot, a snake, and a guinea pig, but obviously the school wouldn’t let them get something as cool as a snake. Plus, they’re holding the election during lunchtime on the cafeteria’s chicken stars day. This is a classic case of voter suppression, Johan affirms.
Meanwhile, Diane is helping Ruby pick out an Election Day outfit. According to Ruby, the three essentials for an Election Day outfit are breathability, walkability, and sensuality. After all, she explains as if picking out clothes for Easter Mass, her ancestors didn’t struggle for freedom so she could show up to voting booths in sweatpants. She’s much more concerned about picking this outfit than figuring out which candidate to vote for, because she already knows she’s going to vote for the Democrat. That sounds like ignorance to little Diane — shouldn’t you vote for the candidate who most shares your values and policy positions, regardless of party affiliation? Ruby isn’t having it and makes a point about the importance of party solidarity using the 2000 presidential election, where many voters mistakenly cast a ballot for Pat Buchanan due to faulty voting booths (though in Ruby’s version, the real cause of the mistaken votes were improper shoes and faulty Election Day outfits).
NEXT: White justice