Coincidentally, the episode of Black-ish immediately following the presidential election focuses on a conversation about white-collar versus blue-collar jobs — when the election was often portrayed as a battle between rural, working-class blue-collar Trump voters and liberal coastal elites. That depiction may be somewhat inaccurate, but nevertheless it’s a debate that’s been taking place. Black-ish often feels like it has its finger on the pulse of important cultural conversations, and this surprising convergence only increases that.
The episode’s central conflict arises when Jack and Diane get their results on career aptitude tests. Diane is slated to hold a “position of power in a political organization,” which delights her parents. Jack, on the other hand, is predicted to be a member of a unionized group of skilled laborers.” The reception to that revelation is somewhat more muted in the Johnson household.
Jack, for his part, seems legitimately excited about becoming a lumberjack, mechanic, or welder — which Dre sees as little more than a recipe for losing a finger. Bow is worried this will affect Jack’s mind-set going into middle and high school, which seems like a pretty good case for not doing these tests at all, right? This isn’t France or Germany, after all. This inspires Pop to speak up on behalf of blue-collar workers. He was one himself, and now he’s got a great life (even if it’s only because he mooches off his more successful, white-collar son). As he points out, “position of power in a political organization” sounds like a load of hot nonsense when you think about it for more than a minute.
Dre and Bow quickly take this to the school’s principal, who naturally assumes they’re there to talk about a real issue, like Diane’s behavior, or their refusal to attend parent-teacher conferences, or Pops’ known drinking habits. No, they’re there because they’re mad about Jack’s career aptitude test. The principal tells them to chill out, since Jack’s a nice boy. Diane on the other hand — but before he can finish that sentence, Dre and Bow are out the door, unwilling to confront an actual problem. “Teachers are scared!” The principal shouts desperately after them.
Cut immediately to proof of Diane’s bad behavior, as she’s trying to humiliate Jack for his test. He couldn’t care less. He’s just as much of a happy camper as always, but when Ruby sees this bullying, she decides to try setting Diane on the path of righteousness. She sits her granddaughter down and starts reading Bible passages to her. Diane reacts by immediately puking all over the Good Book, which convinces Ruby she’s possessed by a demon.
Dre’s in a good mood after the meeting with the principal, but of course that changes as soon as he gets to the office. Leslie and Connor seem supportive of the Jack situation at first, noting (incorrectly) that paid white laborers were just as important in building America as the black slaves. So, Dre asks, would Leslie have been fine with Connor becoming a paid laborer? “No,” Leslie responds, “I love him.”
Back at home, Dre and Bow come upon Pops teaching Jack how to unclog a toilet, and other important plumbing skills. Pops is proud of his grandson, saying he has a real future. Pops says he never worked harder than when he was a plumber, which prompts an eye roll from Ruby and a flashback to a younger Pops faking a back injury on the job in order to get out of work. But hey, Ruby did the same thing when she worked at the post office, as a subsequent flashback demonstrates. The conversation quickly turns serious, though, when Pops accuses Dre and Bow of looking down on blue-collar people. Dre says no, they just want their children to continue down the road they paved, and he thinks a blue-collar job would mean going backward. Every generation is supposed to be better than their parents, right? Well, not according to some statistics, which project millennials to be the first generation in a long time to have a lower standard of living than their parents. Pops is worried that this logic is turning America into a nation of “YouTubing selfie takers who don’t know how to fix a damn toilet.” Bow declares that she’ll reach out to Jack. For her, this means working through Latin flashcards with him, but Jack can’t even remember where he left them.
NEXT: Things get serious