Watching Black-ish, Living Christian-ish

Isaac Adams | March 17, 2016

In this article, I—a black Christian—want to make you aware of a TV show called Black-ish and how we as Christians might learn from it.

I’m somewhat anxious to write about this show because one of my favorite, more cranky friends has recently discipled me in the ways of how sitcoms portray black culture. I won’t mention any names, but it’s definitely Thabiti Anyabwile.

Thabiti has encouraged me to consider the goals and effects of black sitcoms over the years—from Sanford and Son to Good Times to Sister, Sister to The Cosby Show. Beamed into our living rooms, these shows amplify conversations about race, ethnicity, and class—ones often had (or avoided) in our living rooms—to a broader, national setting.©(ABC/Bob D’Amico)(ABC/Byron Cohen)

And Black-ish currently rules the nation’s airwaves as the leading black sitcom. Depicting life for the only black family in an all-white suburban neighborhood, the Johnsons are a hilarious, self-discovering proxy for all things black, white, and everything in between. Testifying to the inherent ambiguities of what it means to be “black” in 2016, the show’s title dons a simple yet potent suffix: “ish.

This suffix suggests that an ethnicity like “black” bends and molds since it depends on time and space. In other words, “ish” implies “blackness” isn’t just one monolithic construct or experience. Though…

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