Black-ish

What-we-want-is-an-overall-blackening.jpg            An identity crisis can be defined as “a feeling of unhappiness and confusion caused by not being sure about what type of person you really are or what the true purpose of your life is” or “personal psychosocial conflict especially in adolescence that involves confusion about one’s social role and often a sense of loss of continuity to one’s personality” (Merriam). In my opinion, I feel that every color person that grows up in America go through an identity crisis. I was born and raised in Vietnam for eight years and the only two words I knew when I stepped foot on American soil were “hello” and “apple”. The elementary school that I went to was predominantly white (roughly 85%) and the only other Asian person I knew was a family friend, but she was two grades higher than me so she was not always there to help translate when there’s a language barrier. After I completed third grade, I was basically white washed; I wanted to be like all of my white friends. I started to respond to my parents in English at home and I would get in trouble doing so, also because my parents barely spoke English to understand me. I never wanted my mom to pack me lunch because the kids at school would make fun of me every time I brought Asian food from home. Lunchables were my savior, even though cheese and crackers were never fulfilling for a long day at school. I defined myself as an American, not Vietnamese American because I did not want to be affiliated with my Vietnamese culture at all since none of the kids at school seemed to understand anything that we do, such as using chopsticks, taking off our shoes inside the house, and eating stinky food. But to my American friends, I was just the “Chinese girl”, even though I was Vietnamese, but no one seemed to really care because “all Asians are the same”.

Then, in eighth grade, my family visited Vietnam for the first time since I left. I was 14 at the moment so I was already at the awkward stage of puberty and trying to find out who I am or who I want to be, and basically to fit in with everyone in junior high. So when I went back to Vietnam, I went through another identity crisis because people in Vietnam called me a whitewashed Viet and they saw me as an American, not as a Vietnamese person. However, being surrounded by Vietnamese people 24/7 for six weeks straight changed my opinion about wanting to be a white girl. I realized that the absence of being around other Vietnamese people pulled me away from identifying myself as whom I really am. Also, I grew up in Redmond where it’s predominantly white and the only Asians I was surrounded by were rich, whitewashed Koreans. So when I came back to America after six weeks in Vietnam, I absolutely hated being around white people. I associated with many but I tried to make more Asian friends and hung around them more. Up until today I still identify myself as Vietnamese and I would take as many opportunities as I can to be more involved in my community to remind myself constantly of my roots.

Thus, the cultural artifact that I chose is an episode called “The Nod” from ABC’s Black-ish sitcom and how it portrays black identity. For those not familiar with the show, Black-ish is a comedy sitcom that centers on an upper middle class African-American family and the main character Dre (Anthony Anderson) struggles to gain a sense of cultural identity while raising his kids in a predominantly white neighborhood (Black-ish). In the episode “The Nod”, Dre wanted to expand his son’s, Junior, social circle to include more black kids after he found out that his son was clueless about some black street codes, such as “the nod”, which was the “internationally accepted, yet, unspoken sign of acknowledgement of black folks around the world” (Barris). Then Dre realized that because he put his kids in a private school, the population was predominantly white so he was desperate to find black friends for Junior. His wife suggested him looking into The Leimert Social Club, an organization for rich black kids that promotes service, leadership and collegiality, but Dre misunderstood it as something like the YMCA. Then a new employee at work, whom happened to also be black, gave advice that the best way to teach Junior about black struggles was to take him to the hood to experience things first hand. But Junior was still not understanding why this was an issue for him because he identified himself as an American, not African American. Growing up and attending school with mainly whites, I totally understand where Junior stands in this case. When Junior finally found another black friend that had the same interests as him, such as making hobbit shires rather than playing basketball at the courts, Dre realized that black struggles came in a lot of different forms and Junior’s struggles were just different from his own (Barris).

Kenya Barris created this show in 2014 and since then had produced two seasons. While this show targeted African Americans because it was dedicated to represent African Americans, there have been many critics as to why some people might not like the show. D.C. Livers, a podcaster and journalist, posted an article that discussed the five reasons why she won’t watch Black-ish.: 1 & 2) Were criticizing the cast and how some people did not fit their roles; 3.) Livers pointed out that the script and characters were weak because not many black people can relate to those on the show; 4.) During these past few years in America, there has been an increased in racial tensions, especially in the black community and the start of #BlackLivesMatter. To create a show that includes a privileged, “good” black family can make the tension arise in that blacks are being underrepresented in the media; and 5.) Since ABC owns less than 10% of its marketing budget with Black-owned media outlets, mainstream media would make millions, assuming that all blacks will watch the show. Livers also made the statement “Why can’t Black people just be Black people anymore? Do we always have to come with a label that says ‘we’re not really Black’ so we’re good just to be on TV or the big screen?” (Marc)

Even though this show is in modern time, we see this type of underrepresentation and flawed views of blacks in entertainment and media since the early 1800s. When we watched the film Ethnic Notion in class, they talked about minstrels, which were a band of white entertainers that would blacken their face to perform songs and music ostensibly of black origin. Minstrel started in 1843 and was America’s first form of popular entertainment. One of the most famous black face performers was Bert Williams, whom was actually African American. Williams got his foot in the door when working at a theater and since then kicked off his performance career doing minstrel shows. Williams was also the first black comedian to ever appear on cinema because he worked hard to overcome the obstacles against blacks in media. Although minstrels were mainly white actors that would paint their faces black, Williams did it anyway to be likeable for his performances, “’I have never been able to discover that there was anything disgraceful in being a colored man. But I have often found it inconvenient – in America’” (Padqett). Despite his popularity at that time, Williams still struggle with racism, such as having to wait outside a venue for a white person to escort him inside because blacks were not allowed to go into those types of places alone (Ethnic).

This time period was important for African Americans because they were angered towards the stereotypes and labels that were given to them through media and entertainment and they wanted to take any chance to show people that they were not all vicious or any of those assumptions. Thus, they would do anything to get their foot into entertainment, such as Bert Williams doing black face. The labeling of African Americans as bad and ugly affects them internally and externally. During the Great Migration and Jim Crow era, whites tried to steer away from the idea of integration with blacks. So when people are given any sort of chance to fit in with whites for better opportunities, they don’t want to identify themselves as African American. During slavery, race was what it meant to be black (a slave), but Jim Crow defines race as a second-class citizen (Pittman). In Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow article, she talks about the creation of the racial stigma that all blacks are criminals and how that prevented many from succeeding for better opportunities. This stigma would put blacks in positions where they would lie about their association with any family members that were an ex-felon, just so they could be more acceptable by their white counterparts (Alexander).

Because of the labeling and the racial stigma that blacks are criminals, inhumane, animalistic, rapists, etc., not many African Americans want to identify themselves as black, but rather as an American. Since blacks have always been underrepresented, especially in the media, it is important that if any shows or movies were to help represent, it was to be used with effective methods. The imagery of what a black family look like in Black-ish is flawed view by the creator. Although some of the issues, such as identity crisis are pointed out, the whole show really is weak in showing the true characteristics and struggles of black families in America. I can see identity crisis happening even in times of slavery and is continued until today because of the inequality that whites create for people of color. It can happen to anyone and people shouldn’t be judged towards whom they want to identify themselves as.

 

Hong Chau

 

Works Cited

Alexander, Michelle. Feb 09, 2010. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New Press, The, New York.

Barris, Kenya. “Black-ish: The Nod.” ABC. 2014. Television.

“Black-ish.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.                       <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3487356/&gt;.

Ethnic Notions. Dir. Marlon Riggs. 1986. Youtube. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DlRuEz2_K0&gt;.

Marc. “Why I Won’t Be Watching ABC’s “Blackish” Sitcom.” Polite on Society. N.p., 17 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://www.politeonsociety.com/2014/09/17/why-i-wont-be-watching-abcs-blackish-sitcom/).>.

Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/identity%20crisis&gt;.

Padqett, Ken. “Bert Williams.” Blackface. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://black-face.com/Bert-Williams.htm&gt;.

Pittman, LaShawnda (2015). The New Jim Crow [Powerpoint Slides].

 

 

17 thoughts on “Black-ish

  1. 1, The title “Black-ish” gives a clear indication that this tv series is the cultural product. It is a great title.

    2. Pictures from scenes of the chosen episode give a nice visual representation of some of the acts as well as how the cast looks like.

    3. I do not watch this TV series, I have probably watched parts of a couple of episodes. From what I have heard, it has received a negative review from black people. The author of this blog incorporated the opinions of D.C Livers as to why this show negatively portrays African Americans but the episode chosen as the cultural artifact talks about the father’s wishes to make his son embrace his African American heritage. I liked the balance of both issues.

    4. The author makes a good connection with the cultural artifact and how black actors such as Bert Williams had to put on a black face or play a racially degrading role in order to get their foot in the door.

    5. The blog was well written. It was personable and portrayed the reasoning as to why “Black-ish” was chosen as the cultural product. I enjoyed the parts about lunchables being their savior because as a fellow Asian American, I also went through a similar experience of being embarrassed to bring my “stinky food” to lunch at school.

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  2. I related to this post a lot personally, because there is a controversy over a similar show made by ABC called Fresh Off the Boat!

    Your title is simple yet describes exactly what you’re going to talk about. I think the title is perfect.

    There is definitely a visual representation of the cultural product. I think it allows the readers to get a glimpse into what you’re talking about, but I don’t think it necessarily represents what you are trying to portray in the article. I would like it to be more specific about what we are learning in class because I feel like although it is a slight modern adaptation of ethnic notions, I think there are larger issues with the show. I think there could be more about the course material in the post!

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  3. I really enjoyed your blog! Your title and visual representations pulled me in because I have seen the TV show Black-ish, and I was curious to see what someone else had thought about the sitcom. I think you did a good job of explaining what the show is about, and how it portrays African Americans for the folks who haven’t seen the show. I also think you did a good job of connecting your artifact to the course, as you did with the mention of black face and ethnic notions. I really enjoyed reading your personal connection, also. That drew me in immediately! Overall, great blog!

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  4. 1. I understood exactly what you meant by the title.
    2. There is a picture of the cast and another from the episode that you talk about – depicts the blog well.
    3. You said, “we see this […] flawed views of blacks in entertainment and media since the early 1800s.” What makes this tv show flawed, exactly?
    4. Good course connection, particularly with Ethnic Notions.
    5. The personable quality of the intro was great.

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  5. 1. The title was simple and straight-forward. I liked it and thought it represented the blog greatly.
    2. The visual representation is two pictures, both from the show talked about in the blog. The pictures make it easy to imagine what Blackish is about and makes it easy to focus on the content of the blog.
    3. I would like to know more about the differences between the family on Blackish and the majority of African American families today. The blog makes it clear that Blackish misrepresents African American families, but I would have liked to know a bit more of what those differences are.
    4. I think overall the show is connected to the course material well. I especially liked when you connect Bert Williams’ acting career to the acting careers of modern day African Americans.
    5. I think the strongest point of this blog is how personable it is and how you connect it to your own life experiences. I think the focus of the blog could have been a little more clear, but overall I really liked this blog.

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  6. 1. The title, “BLACK-ISH,” makes it is very clear on what the blog will be about. It is a good title!

    2. There are two pictures for the visual representation. Both pictures represent what the artifact and blog are about very well. The first picture shows the cast of the t.v. show “Black-ish” and is also the photo used in most of the commercializing and advertising. The second picture also does a good job depicting what the blog will be about because it involves subtitles to the scene that is being captured and relates to the topic of the blog.

    3. I think I would like to know more about the good and bad ways that this show portrays African Americans (unless it’s all or nothing) or more about how this affects our view of African Americans.

    4. Based on what we have learned in the course, I believe that the author of this blog connects their cultural artifact very well to course material. She related it to the film, Ethnic Notions, which we watched in class and the many stereotypical images of Blacks in the mainstream society.

    5. I really enjoyed reading how the author connected the cultural artifact to her own life. Good job!
    🙂

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  7. 1. The titled reflected exactly what the blog was going to be about.
    2. I liked that you used a meme from the episode that you were referring to so that we got a clear sense of what your blog was going to cover.
    3. I would like to know more about why Dre would want his son around other Black children, what would come from that?
    4. I believe that you connected really well with your artifact. You gave a great background story that many people, including myself, can relate to. I remember not wanting my mother to pack food that we ate at home because children would make fun of me.
    5. Next time, instead of using the name of your tv show ,maybe you can personalize your title a little bit. I enjoyed reading your blog.

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  8. 1. I think that the title very well reflects what you wrote about, it’s a very cool topic.
    2. The visual representation is a good idea, I myself have never heard of this show so seeing it was a very good idea for your blog post.
    3. I think that you mentioned everything I would want to know apart from everything you said. I think you did a great job talking about the show and how it relates to your own life.
    4. You connected the course material with your cultural product very well in that you mentioned a lot of the things our professor talked about in such a way that it really connected all together.
    5. I really liked this post because I can relate to it as well and I think that there are many kids who struggle with an identity crisis to this day and I must say it is odd at times.

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  9. 1. I think that the title reflects the writing very well, it was to the point. It was a great choice in regards to the content of the blog.
    2. The visual representation gives us a great sense of what the blog is going to be about. Especially because the visual is a meme of what we are going to be reading about later.
    3. I would like to know how the artifact could have also connected to black feminism and controlling images, or if there is even a connection at all.
    4. I think that for the topic that was picked the related fairly well. This was primarily about identity crisis in minorities based off of media representation. So the Ethnic Notions video is a good relation.
    5.I liked how you connected your own person scenario with the issues from the artifact.

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  10. First off this is a great and personal read that I can completely relate to having a Nigerian mother and going back and forth between both countries. I thoroughly enjoyed your blog but I think that the the title did not necessarily fit. I understand where you’re coming from but I think the title was mainly related to your artifact not your blog’s entirety. The visual representation of your artifact is also good and fitting but I would’ve loved a picture of how you felt whitewashed, in whatever way you may have chosen. I like how you not only connected course material but also went further in depth and research. I would love to know more about how you feel in your current atmosphere being Vietnamese.

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  11. The title of this blog is right on point. It sets up the theme for the blog perfectly. The visuals for the blog are good. The second one is pretty funny. I would like to know about the actor’s points of view on African Americans in the media. I would also like to know any hidden goals of the actors in the show. This blog does a good job of connecting this show to the minstrel shows of the early 20th century

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  12. 1. Yes, the title reflects off of what the blog was going to be about. Very well done.
    2. Yes, the cultural artifact is an image of the show that the blog is about.
    3. The blog explains in depth and I do not have any question on how it relates back to class.
    4. Blog relates to class lecture as seen in the previous comment. In class we learned how African Americans have to learn how to cope in America, and retain their identity.
    5. One suggestion that I have is to explain more about the specific cultural artifact that you chose. However, you did a good job of explaining how it relates back to you. I enjoyed reading the article and since I am also came from a different culture, I can relate to you in some ways.

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  13. 1) The title is well descriptive of what is in store throughout the blog. It is discussed in great detail the TV show, “Blackish”, so the title therefore, fitting.
    2) As I have never seen an episode of the TV show, the visual representations, gave me a good image to visually illustrate the articulations of the blog.
    3) I would like to know a bit more on the disparities and similarities between a real African American family and the family “Blackish” illustrates on the television series. Although, I do account for the length limit. I guess, the piece got very interested on the topic at hand.
    4) I think this piece or blog correlated nicely with class material.
    5) I really appreciated how the piece is especially connected to your life and self-identity.

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  14. 1. I think you could have gone a little more in depth with the title. The title just reflects the show you talk about and doesn’t exactly spark interest immediately, but it is straight to the point so it was not exactly a bad idea.

    2. Yes, the picture represents the show.

    3. You do an awesome job of connecting modern day ideals to past concepts which can be difficult since it is such a current tv show. I was very impressed

    4. The blog goes more in depth with the issues we learned about from this time period in class

    5. I do not really have any suggestions and thought your blog was great! I love how you picked a modern television show as your topic

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  15. 1. The title could be more creative, but it certainly gets the point across very well. Probably not much reason to try to over do it, so it works well. I liked it.
    2. The visual representation was great! it connected with what you were saying and showed a specific scene to give me an idea of the episode.
    3. I would have liked to know more about the criticisms surrounding a misleading portrayal of black families, but given that you were presenting it as an artifact, I understand why you didn’t go into more detail about that.
    4. Connects to what we are talking about in class very well, especially the conversation about black face and black actors using it to get themselves a better life.
    5. The personal aspect of this blog post was great. It relates both to the class and artifact

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  16. 1. Does the person’s title reflect what the project will be about? Yes/No. Can it be improved? If so, provide suggestions. If not, let them know it’s a great title. Yes, the title clearly indicates that the blog will be talking about the show.
    2. Is there a visual representation of the cultural product-picture, audio, video, or written? Yes/No Yes, there is a visual representation.
    a. How well does the visual representation depict what the blog is about? The title pictures of the show’s characters does a good job of illustrating what the blog will be about and the second photo (meme) provided does an even better job of that.
    3. What would you like to know about the cultural artifact as it relates to what you are learning/have learned in class? I don’t really have any questions about this post, and this may be because I already knew about the negative reviews this show received from the Black community.
    4. Based on what you have learned in the course, how well does the person connect the cultural artifact to course material? I think the author connected the blog back to our class material well. They did a good job of using both outside and class resources to piece together their writing.
    5. Provide any other useful comments that may the person complete blog #2. I liked the writing style and the focal points of the blog. I don’t have much negative feedback to provide as I found the writing to be very engaging and relatable.

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  17. 1. Yes the title is clear, and to an individual, such as me, who has heard of the show, it alludes to what the blog would be about.
    2. The picture presented in the blog further tells the reader what the blog will be about as it is a poster used to advertise the show.
    3. Though I haven’t seen this show, this blog has peaked my interests and I think I might watch an episode to see how I like it.
    4. I like how this blog ties the show into flawed views of blacks due to misrepresentation of African American culture in popular media. Great job on that!
    5. Overall, very good blog, you clearly have done your research, and it might just give me yet another reason to procrastinate next quarter 🙂 GREAT WORK!

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