(approximate read time: 5 minutes)
Every week I am amazed at the radically balanced perspective Black-ish takes on controversial issues, while still finding the pristine timing- the moments between moments if you will- to dig in where it really matters. At first I was skeptical, expecting the rug to be yanked out from under me (a position I admittedly still hold to a certain degree), but my becoming a fan of the show blossomed from a single revelation about the telecast approach they were taking. Beneath the quirky parents, millennial quips, humorous family emphasis, and strong atmospheric presence of blackness, runs a very concerted throughline.
Black-ish is a candid conversation with America.
And on January 11th, 2017, they wanted to talk about Trump. More specifically, the nuanced position of its central black protagonist “Dre,” played by Anthony Anderson.
My wife was sitting next to me. My oldest baby sister and cousin perched on the opposing couch. All of us had eyes glued to the screen, souls lapping at the healing potion in freefall, minds at ease in the instinctive presence of pure truth. There was no mental editing about how I could have written this scene better, because the rightness of the whole moment rendered perfection irrelevant. Word by word, note by note, scene by scene, our complex political story was told. To white people. From a black person. It wasn’t messy, it wasn’t verbose, it wasn’t hateful, it wasn’t ignorant, it wasn’t prideful… it was the cut and dry truth in all of its unsplendid glory.
“Powerful.” That was all my sister could say when it was finished. “That was powerful.”
I was feeling things. The ethereal catch in one’s throat when you come face to face with your purpose. It’s like visiting Granny during the holidays- you know she’s alive, and she has influence over your life, but there’s something wonderfully empowering in being embraced by her. Some fantastic veridicality wholly beyond the scope of humanity’s grasp aside from the free experience of it.
Not just to white America, or even Black America, or any other self contained designation therein. This was also a conversation to artists. This was the gathering around the living room to discuss what hope looks like and how we each are going to contribute. This is the pooling together of various artistic expression from organizing, to spoken word, to long form narrative, to fingernail painting. This was the call for the team of the one race called “Human” to actually function as a team.
To me. With me. One on one. Prodding me. Nudging me. Getting in my face. Staring me in the eye and asking me why I’m dragging my feet. Lovingly, yet firmly, demanding a reasonable answer why I’m not hopping out of bed early every morning, fired from the musket of faith and purpose. Showing me what I’m already a part of and will be pouring into. Reminding me that the narrow road is as the garden tree pruned- a temporary restraint for greater fruit; for a more worthy comeuppance. Not because any of us is so very special, but because we ALL are so special. An impossibility translated into actuality by means of our omnipotent God.
I wrote elsewhere about prayer a short while ago. It was a hypothetically intuitive piece, pondering the personality of prayer itself, proposing the premise that might it not be power, per se, but rather positioning? Not force, but flow?
I am beginning to see life may follow a similar format. Right and wrong surely exist, but what if the POINT of life is neither of those things? Those are just… demarcations. Lines that establish what game it is that you’re playing. Like basketball or football. Might not wrong simply be the “here and no further or you’re out of bounds” designation? The point where the game benefits all pause until things are put back in order? And might not right be the “here’s a temporary reward for excellence in proper focus and execution” designation, where the game doesn’t stop there, but encourages you to play harder? Obviously not a flawless metaphor, but broadly speaking, could that not be the case?
We are so constantly urged to “pick a side,” with as devastatingly consequential unfortunate event series as we can muster for not siding with wherever our allegiances happen to then lie. Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, pro-LGBT or pro-heterosexual, pro-life or pro-abortion, Black or White, American or Chinese, Marvel or DC, on and on and on and on. There’s a division to everything, but that does not mean we are required to be divisive. Not the majority of us anyway. Yesterday the Dallas Cowboys battled it out with the Greenbay Packers and, to the chagrin of Cowboys fans everywhere, lost it in the last moments of the game. However… how ridiculous, how utterly ludicrous, would we think it was had both of the teams showed up and simply ARGUED about the rules of the game? We’d be shouting at our TV screens “PLAY THE GAME ALREADY!!”
You hear me?
Play the game already.
That’s what life IS. The game. The flow.
It’s literally impossible to become a better player by becoming an expert at the rules. We can only be great players, by playing. The boundaries are one part, but to be true masters, we’ve got to become students of the game. Students of life. Studying all facets, strength training with difficult/unfamiliar topics, and embracing boundary lines established by Power outside of us.
In this dynamic monologue, there’s a moment where you can see that Anthony isn’t acting anymore. This is coming from the deepest parts of his heart, from the very cornerstone of his spiritual being- this wasn’t just a bit for ratings. This was truth. That whole exposition was the fervent description that Blacks had to learn the hard way that an obsession with rules was wholly unprofitable- we didn’t have the luxury of a power complex to blind us to that fact. And in the midst of the harshest of brow beatings with the rule books, we had to learn to play the game. And in becoming great game players, we raised the caliber of life for EVERYBODY.
Lastly, in the final moments of the show, Bow was asking her daughter why she was making lemonade for the school politics rally. Was it because when life hands you lemons make lemonade? Or perhaps it was an ode to Beyonce? With a sympathetic smile tugging on the corner of her lips, Zoey shakes her head, giving a simple response to her befuddled mother.
“It’s not liberal lemonade. It’s not conservative lemonade. It’s just lemonade that I made with love. That’s what I want my contribution to be- love.”
Play the game already.
Joshua Evans is a prolific writer and sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast who believes story is central to everything and that mythology can change the world. He currently hosts two youtube shows- The Truth About Superheroes and Comic of the Week, as well as runs a short story blogsite on medium as The Story Junkie. If you would like to further be a part of his cosmic psyche, you can join him on Twitter and Instagram or simply subscribe to this blog… and remember- sharing is caring! Cheers!