Black-ish is imperfect - and that imperfection is part of what makes it so promising.
It’s been frustrating to see people’s critique for Black-ish because they assume that a character saying something equates to the writer/show condoning what was said. It’s more of an illustration that 1) some blacks actually think this way, 2) these are issues that blacks deal with, and 3) not all blacks deal with these issues perfectly. The show is imperfect because *people* are imperfect.
I love that the show allows that, because race isn’t an issue that always has coloring inside of the lines. It takes bravery to address these issues in the black community without creating these flawless, respectable characters. The show doesn’t bow down to the pressures of creating perfect black characters just in case whites see it and think badly about us, and I think that’s where black TV needs to go. Black characters should be allowed to show flaws and complexity, without being demonized for being imperfect. I thought that the pilot had a great balance of that.
For example: people are upset about Anthony Anderson’s character wanting his kid to play basketball instead of field hockey, saying that his wife isn’t really black, etc. But the show isn’t validating those thoughts; it’s showing how harmful they can be. The pilot conveyed that the character’s obsession with race is one of his flaws - it nearly hurt his ability to provide for his family and of hurting his relationship with his son.
But the show also showed the fears that Anderson’s character, and many successful blacks, have. He fears his children losing their cultural identity while living in an affluent neighborhood. Many black films have pro-black characters, but most of them aren’t allowed to be flawed - they’re often either portrayed as the strong black man who always has it together (i.e. Lawrence Fishburne in Boyz N Da Hood), or as being an inconsequential joke who’s more good for laughs than he is a real opinion (first one I can think of now is DJ Iz from “8 Mile”). Anderson’s character is someone who has a legitimate concern, but who deals with that concern incorrectly.
By the end of the episode, he realized that he needed balance. After conversations with his father and his wife, and soul searching, he realizes that he needs to be able to stay authentic to himself while not ostracizing the world and family around him. Many black professionals find themselves looking for that balance.
I think Black-ish has promise because it seems to not care who it offends: it’s more focused on relating to the people who can relate to what the show depicts. The pilot addressed code switching, the desire to succeed in both the white corporate world and the black corporate world, and the desire to keep your children grounded while they grow up with what you didn’t have. There were a few times when it tried a little too hard, but a show on ABC (!) that’s addressing these issues in interesting ways is fantastic to me.