It can feel frivolous to encourage people to turn to TV for help dealing with all of the doom and gloom happening these days. It’s taking an enormous amount of energy to be able to merely keep up with this antagonistic regime, and watching television only seems like more of a distraction. But sometimes television is exactly what we need to galvanize us to action, or even to simply ground us. Take, for example, Wednesday night’s episode of Black-ish.
From its inception, Black-ish has never shied away from addressing topical issues such as Black Lives Matter and police brutality in a profound and authentic way, and last night’s episode, called “Lemons,” was no different.
The episode takes place two months after Donald Trump’s election, and manages to take us back to what was an almost peaceful type of despair post-election, before this avalanche of cabinet picks, nepostistic appointments, and um, alleged golden showers.
The characters all deal with the nightmare in different ways. Tracee Ellis Ross’ Bow tries to handle her grief by supporting various worthy organizations. Jack is hell-bent on only seeing the positive in everything, and Junior is preparing to recite Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech for a Healing Rally his school is putting on. These characters’ responses certainly reflected the diversity of emotions Americans who didn’t vote for Trump felt after the election, but it’s Anthony Anderson’s Dre and his coworkers who really delve into the meat of the post-Trump discussion.
Instead of working on a very important pitch they’ve been putting off since November 8, the team constantly bicker about the election results—all while Dre insists they get back to work. When Leslie, Dre’s boss, accuses him of not caring about what’s happening in this country, he launches into a powerful monologue addressing the familiarity of disappointment in America that black people have felt, saying, “You don’t think I care about this country? I love this country even though at times it doesn’t love me back.”
Here’s the monologue in full, recited as Nina Simone’s take on “Strange Fruit” played in the background and a collage of powerful images appeared on the screen:
For my whole life, my parents, my grandparents, me, for most black people, this system has never worked for us. But we still played ball, tried to do our best and live by the rules, even though we knew they would never work out in our favor. Had to live in neighborhoods that you wouldn’t drive through, send our kids to school with books so beat up you couldn’t read them, work jobs that you wouldn’t even consider in your nightmares.
Black people wake up every day believing that our lives are going to change even though everything around us says its not. Truth be told you ask most black people, and they tell you that no matter who won this election, they didn’t expect the hood to get better, but they still voted because because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
You think I’m not sad that Hillary didn’t win? That I’m not terrified of what Trump’s about to do? I’m used to things not going my way. I’m sorry that you’re not and that it’s blowing your mind, so excuse me if I get a little offended because I didn’t see this outrage when everything was happening to all of my people since we were stuffed on boats in chains. I love this country as much if not more than you do and don’t you ever forget that.
The monologue was a searing summation of what black people have overcome throughout American history—a genuine response rooted in exhaustion and despondency about the future, but also a deep understanding of what America really looks like. It’s also a potent reminder that, even as Trump continues to cause media circuses intended to distract us, we need to stay focused on what really matters.