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The ‘Black-ish’ Premiere Joined A Tradition Of Shows That Grappled With ‘The N-Word’

Category : Entertainment



On the season premiere of ABC’s Emmy-nominated black-ish, which returned last night for a second season, the Johnson’s youngest son Jack (Miles Brown) is expelled from school for saying the n-word while innocently rapping Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.” There’s a zero-tolerance policy, and even though Jack doesn’t say it in a hateful way, or even call someone else the n-word, he still gets in trouble.

His dad Dre (Anthony Anderson) asks his black co-workers why they say “THE word,” to quote the episode’s title. One responds it’s a “great rhyming word,” and the other only thinks it’s fine to use because he’s a spineless suck-up; if his boss Dre finds nothing wrong with a black person using it, then he doesn’t, either. And vice versa. Dre grows more and more confused, especially after talking to the school’s strict black principal. Can anyone say it?

If black-ish doesn’t come to any clear answers, it’s hardly alone in grappling with the question. Let’s explore how eight other TV shows mined similar “THE word” territory.

All in the Family

Archie Bunker freely used the derogatory term “coons,” but he didn’t say the n-word until season eight’s “Two’s a Crowd,” a superb exploration of where racism comes from. For Archie, it was passed on from his abusive father, who freely called black people the n-word, so he does, too. At least until he gets beaten up by a black student at school. “Did you ever possibly stop to think that your father could be wrong?” his son-in-law Mike asks while they’re trapped in a closet (hey, it’s a sitcom). The question enrages Archie, who...  Read More

Josh Kurp

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