Black-ish has never been afraid of getting political and being honest. Being able to confront real-life issues in an unapologetic way is one of the show’s strengths. And in Wednesday’s episode, “Lemons,” the show examined the effect that Donald Trump’s presidential win has had on the Johnson family.
Written and directed by Black-ish creator and showrunner Kenya Barris, “Lemons” explores the repercussions of Trump’s win in a variety of spheres and relationships — from children reacting to it at school to families discussing it at home to co-workers talking about it at the office. The underlying theme is simple: The 2016 election changed American humanity.
The episode’s most powerful scene comes at Dre’s (Anthony Anderson) office, when his co-workers get into it over one of them voting for Trump. Dre is eventually prodded for his take.
“Why do you not care about what's happening to our country?" his boss asks.
They’re searing words that not only question Dre’s political passion but also echo a very real phenomenon of picking apart an election in hindsight — one that has often resulted in a narrative that blames one group of people or another for Hillary Clinton’s loss. (This behavior isn’t limited to Trump’s win; in 2008, for example, black voters were often singled out for the passage of Prop. 8, which opposed same-sex marriage.)
When Dre’s boss calls him out, it spurs a quake-inducing anger in Dre.
“Black people wake up every day believing that our lives are going to change, even though everything around us says it's not,” Dre says, as Nina Simone’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” begins to play. “I'm sorry that you're not and it's blowing your mind, so excuse me if I get a little offended because I didn't see all of this outrage when everything was happening to all of my people since we were stuffed on boats in chains.”
Dre talks about the idea of an American dream and American exceptionalism, but the American reality is that for black men and women, those concepts are hard to believe when the country has a history of injustice that says otherwise. Having faith in a country in spite of what it’s shown requires a love and fidelity that many of us can’t begin to comprehend.
It’s a stunning monologue, one that speaks honestly to Barris and Dre’s experiences. There’s no neat answer for why the election went the way it did; there’s no Clinton cheerleading. Dre is just expressing raw, powerful pain, a pain that isn’t limited to this election. And Barris and Anderson found a way to convey it.
“I love this country," Dre says, finishing his speech. “As much if not more than you do. And don't you ever forget that.”