Manifestations of Whiteness in Blackish

16 Oct

For this blog, I decided to analyze the pilot of ABC’s new family sitcom, Blackish, which addresses the cultural and social tensions that exist for a modern black family in a white neighborhood. The show focuses on Andre “Dre” Johnson as he navigates the world of working in a predominantly white company, parenting four children who go to a predominantly white school, and being married to a biracial (white and black) woman, all while trying to retain his cultural background.

I think one of the most interesting aspects of having a majority non white cast is the static, white characters of this show. Many of the white characters follow tropes that are placed on highlighting their ignorance to the constructs of race and whiteness in america. For example, Mr. Smith, Andre’s boss, represents a powerful yet completely ignorant white man with his reckless substitution of black to “urban” when he makes Andre the vice president of urban affairs in the pilot episode. Mr. Smith could fulfill what Omotayo Banjo and Todd Fraley discussed in their text “Portrayals of Whiteness in Black Films”, the man archetype in which he is portrayed as manipulative of Andre in the show.

Most notably in these tropes though, is the character Josh who works with Andre and clearly manifests the wannabe, the whitebread, and the man archetypes as he makes wild race related insights and behavioural changes when in Andre’s presence yet is also in a higher level position than him in the workplace. I think some possible implications of this characterization is both a recognition of the fundamental differences of racial backgrounds acknowledged by predominantly non-white media and a satire of the sector of white america that has little recognition of race issues or how whiteness has influenced their lives. Josh portrays whites as fearful of directly addressing race but also at the same time completely unafraid to exploit his stereotypes of black america to pigeon hole Andre.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 1.36.24 AM

Growing up in a majority white neighborhood and being of, most likely, european descent myself I can definitely connect with this character or ,namely, that I connect with the fact that I see Josh’s archetype being grounded in some reality. One of the key things about this character is that although he is blatantly racist, he never talks about race, and quite frankly no one I knew really talked about race when I was growing up either. I think that these archetypes not only poke fun, but also comfortably address the concept of invisible whiteness that can be so toxic to not recognize.

-Peter Laug

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