This week, Black-ish took on police violence and the different ways police treat people of color. The show couldn’t have chosen a better time to address this topic, considering police shootings of black people and protests against those shootings are still happening all the time. Although the ultimate result was flawed (we’ll get to that), it’s good that someone with a national platform is addressing this issue, considering the topic didn’t even come up at the most recent presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Speaking of whom, Black-ish made no bones about subtweeting our current candidates during this week’s episode. The first line of Dre’s episode-opening narration explores Trump’s famous slogan: “What truly makes America great?” Dre believes the answer is “community,” and cliché images of Americans building things together play beside footage of Clinton and Trump rallies. In Dre’s mind, America is a giant melting pot filled with people committed to building a better future together… except this line of thought is interrupted when he opens the elevator door at the office and finds a young white girl staring up at him, alone. After looking around frantically, Dre ultimately does nothing, deciding to skip the elevator rather than get caught alone with a defenseless white girl.
Historically, of course, black men have not been given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to white women. That’s not something Dre’s bosses understand, however, when they find security camera tape of Dre abandoning this lost girl. Leslie insists on winding the tape back over and over, declaring that Dre has surely ruined this girl’s faith in humanity — “that is how serial killers are born.” Dre brings up the racial dynamic of the situation, to which Josh screams hysterically “NO! You can’t play the race card today!” Dre is immediately vindicated, however, when Charlie walks in and excuses his lateness by saying there was a white girl in the elevator and he had to take the stairs to avoid her. “Careful, Dre,” he warns, “someone’s setting traps.”
Dre tries to prove his point using a different method: Pop cultural comparison. Ralph Kramden was the beloved protagonist of The Honeymooners even though his catchphrase was threatening his wife with, “pow! Right in the kisser!” Dre imagines a version of The Honeymooners starring him and Bow (somewhat like last season’s Good Times episode), in which he gets hauled away by the police at the first threat of domestic violence. It’s a great joke — one of the most interesting parts of Black-ish as a TV show is its willingness to respond to the racial politics of past TV shows. At this point, Curtis walks in and declares that the white girl on the elevator “almost had me.” Point: Made.
Dre shows the same footage at home and gets two completely different reactions. Bow thinks she’s married a monster who refuses to help defenseless girls, but Pop affirms that black men can never be too careful. He flashes back to his time as an elevator operator. When a young girl walked into his elevator by herself, he up and quit the job. Bow thinks these assumptions are outdated: “It’s Drake summer ‘16,” she points out. Things have changed.
Bow is now on maternity leave from work, and she’d much rather spend it hanging with her kids than getting into arguments with her stubborn husband and father-in-law. Unfortunately for her, her kids don’t want anything to do with her. They’d rather go to their rooms than hang out with her. At this point Pops comes in and offers her help. He’ll teach her some of the pick-up moves he uses to seduce women. Bow obviously rejects this absurd offer, but it’s clear she does need some kind of help reaching her children. Naturally, she’ll end up picking the stupidest possible idea.
Dre, Junior, and Johan are in the car listening to rap music, which is going fine until a car full of white boys pulls up next to them at a stoplight blasting the same. Dre immediately turns down their radio, and yells at Johan and Junior for being millennials who imagine they live in some kind of post-racial utopia. In the real world, Dre explains, it’s illegal to scare white people. Johan and Junior respond by pointing out that these white guys don’t look scared. They know every word to this Rich Homie Quan song, which is probably more than Rich Homie Quan himself can say (Black-ish’s taste in hip-hop is always in point).
Dre remains skeptical, at least until later when the three of them end up in an elevator with a blonde white woman. Instead of calling the cops or instinctively pepper-spraying them, this woman calls in a delivery order and offers up all kinds of incriminating details, from her credit card number to the faults in her home security system. She doesn’t even seem to care that she’s alone with three black men. Now Dre’s seen it all.
NEXT: Pops’ pimp strategy