How “Black-ish” Reflects My Own Experience As A Black Person In America

ABC’s new family sitcom — the No. 1 new comedy of the season — isn’t just challenging the largely lily-white comedy lineup of the networks, it’s doing something more: reminding me of my own childhood.

ABC, Carsey-Werner Productions, Courtesy of Kelley Carter

Grandma Louise’s voice comes in just as clear as day, when I overheard her talking to my parents, describing my childhood experience: fly in the churn of buttermilk.

I was the fly. The buttermilk was the all-white world I was growing up in. I would never know the struggle that my parents did — Dad grew up in the South and was a college freshman in Montgomery, Alabama, by the time the civil rights movement hit its height, and Mom grew up on Detroit’s lower west side, where they were busing kids all over the city in order to force segregation.

My life was vastly different, and it came with its own set of problems. In your formative years, you often see yourself through the prism of your friends. In third grade, we had a project where we all had to write about ourselves as if we were entries in a dictionary. In my description, I wrote I had blonde hair and blue eyes. In sixth grade at a school dance — one of the first times I wasn’t one of the only black kids in class — a group of my friends and I all were dancing, trying to imitate what we saw the black kids doing. I was surprised when one of the girls strolled up to me and whispered, knowingly, “Look at them trying to dance like us.” She looked at me like I was crazy when I gave her my reply. “I’m trying to dance like y’all too. Teach me.”

I was the fly.

My parents unknowingly signed up for this battle when they decided that having a decent salary and good academic pedigree meant taking your family out to the suburbs. With few exceptions in this country, when you’re black, that typically means being sans people who look like you.

That’s why I laughed. I laughed loud and hard last weekend when I finally gave ABC’s new show Black-ish a second chance. I’d seen the pilot months ago, and while I was intrigued and, well, publicly championing a show that featured an affluent black family with a prime spot on network TV to anyone who asked me, I wasn’t quite sold on it. The pilot was loaded, and featured lesson on top of lesson on top of lesson. Dre (Anthony Anderson) is from the ‘hood. Dre promised his mom and dad (Laurence Fishburne) he’d get a good education and get out of the ‘hood. Dre is married to Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), who is a doctor. Ooh, look: Black people can earn college degrees! See?!

Then there was the teen son who wanted a bar mitzvah, and the African rites of passage ceremony, and the lesson on keeping it real.

I thought it was doing too much. The couple’s oldest son prefers field hockey to hoops. Then there was the honorary brother handshake. The wannabe honorary brother who whispers when he wants to know the mundane: “How would a black guy say ‘good morning’?” All in the first episode.

It was funny. But, yawn. Most of us live this without a laugh track. And to me, there wasn’t much else to say. I wasn’t keen on the idea of a weekly show that essentially could end with “…and that’s your lesson of the day on black people, America…” because quite frankly, I get tired of tutorials.

Still, I made a commitment to watch the show. I want it to do well. As a black journalist who covers the entertainment industry, I need it to do well — it gives me a chance to write and report on stories that are important to me, and to the readership I hope to serve. Plus, at the end of the day, I do like seeing reflections of myself, my family, and my social circle play out on screen.

Justine Zwiebel for BuzzFeed

The early success of Black-ish is undeniable. It’s ABC’s No. 1 new comedy and has attracted an audience as diverse as, well, America.

So I watched. And I fell out (and tweeted it out) when Anderson’s Andre Johnson uttered my grandmother’s buttermilk phrase almost verbatim, in reference to his children’s academic experience. And I chuckled when I watched Andre and his wife Rainbow bumble their way through executing disciplinary action on their kids, because they were whipped as kids, but didn’t know if that was the right course for them. It was hilarious when Dre wasn’t quite so sure that his kid’s teacher could teach a lesson on Harriet Tubman (in spite of her impressive academic background) because, well, she isn’t black. And I audibly LOL-ed when Dre tried to teach his son Andre Jr. (who would rather be called Andy because it sounds “more approachable”) the importance of the Negro head nod.

But the best part was in a recent episode where Dre is concerned his son doesn’t have any black friends and goes out to find some for him. (Hi, Mom.)

That so was my parents.

Yes, Dad grew up in small-town Alabama and Mom in big-city Detroit, but her parents migrated from Alabama themselves, hoping to escape the carnage of the pre–civil rights south. My folks met in grad school, a few years after Dad — who pledged the same fraternity as Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall, both of whom came to fraternal meetings to inspire their young brothers to get involved in the movement — moved to Detroit.

They connected because they were both the second-born children in their large families, and my mom says that she fell for my dad’s strong sense of family. They were their parents’ dreams; the very idea that two kids from the sticks and the ghetto, respectively, could grow up to be well-educated black folks with letters behind their names, was feted in my family.

By the time I came along, they were living in a two-story house with a two-car garage and a pool in the back. It all felt so… American Dream-ish. We moved around a lot, mostly living in college towns, and our neighborhoods often had one thing in common: lack of diversity. That speaks more to the socioeconomic realities of our country, and less about my parents trying to escape black people. They weren’t. But what they were trying to do was allow their daughter to grow up in the best neighborhoods they could afford. The unexpected turn of that were the things I’m sure my parents hadn’t accounted for. My life was being a Brownie (and the only brownie in the bunch!), longing for blonde hair and blue eyes (like my BFFs!), and wanting to put suntan lotion on my chocolate brown skin (my friends all did it!).

Guess which member of this Brownies troop I am? Kelley L. Carter

That brings me back to Black-ish. I get it and it speaks to me. Loudly. One of my favorite throwback sitcoms was Family Ties. Brilliant show, that was: Two former peacemaking hippies grow up to rear children under a Republican presidency in the 1980s. Masterful. And funny. And that built-in tension coupled with relatable storylines? Magic. And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention The Cosby Show, which premiered on my birthday. I can still remember watching in awe a family that actually was my family. That premiere came 30 years ago, and proved that American families may look different, but share innate commonalities. It also illustrated that nuclear families can also be brown. And… upper-middle class. More importantly, I’m guessing it made the pitch for a show like Black-ish, perhaps its spiritual descendant, all the easier. There was no need to explain that black people can carry a sitcom in spite of their blackness.

With Black-ish, you have two parents who were able to attend college and navigate fantastic careers — she’s an ER doctor, he’s an SVP for a marketing company — and because of that success, they’re able to live in the best neighborhood their salaries can afford. But here’s the rub: You’ve got four brown children who stand out. And who don’t share your struggles. And who sometimes look at you cockeyed because when you describe your struggles or the struggles of your parents, they don’t get it. The president is black. The President, man. “Obama’s the first black president?! He’s the only president I’ve ever known,” little Jack (Miles Brown) says over a dinner of baked fried chicken. The leader of the free world looks like them, has a family who looks like them, and by the way, so do a whole lot of other successful people we collectively celebrate.

But there’s still this idea of knowing where you come from. You have to be armed with it, no matter how flowery your childhood is. There’s almost nothing more jarring than to be the kid who grew up in Utopia, who never had a moment of friction, and then go off to a PWI — Predominantly White Institution — and discover at 18 that you’re black. You know… black. And what being black means.

Thankfully, that wasn’t my experience, because the second my mother saw me lathering suntan oil on my arms and spritzing my Jheri curl (it was the ’80s!) with Aqua Net, she rounded me up, took me to the bookstore, and bought up everything in the African-American collection. It was important to my parents that in spite of the world they were able to allow me to exist in — and become an adult in — that I carry the most important pieces of me, with me.

And of course, to be OK with my blackness. Not my “blackishness,” but my blackness. Because even though being black isn’t a monolith experience — there’s an important, shared cultural experience that we all should be equipped with, be mindful of, and celebrate.

Just like Blackish‘s Dre and Rainbow are trying to do.

Read more:

18 Things You Didn’t Know About “Twin Peaks”

The owls are not what they seem.

1. The series was originally supposed to take place in North Dakota.

“Long before we moved into the Pacific Northwest, we were playing around with this idea of the plains and a place far away from the world. But what we really lacked was that sense of mystery in the forest and the darkness that moving a little further west had.” —Mark Frost

2. The show’s creators didn’t want to reveal the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer.


“The murder of Laura Palmer was the center of the story, the thing around which all the show’s other elements revolved — like a sun in a little solar system. It was not supposed to get solved. The idea was for it to recede a bit into the background, and the foreground would be that week’s show. But the mystery of the death of Laura Palmer would stay alive.” —David Lynch

3. Before Twin Peaks, co-creators Mark Frost and David Lynch teamed up to write a Marilyn Monroe biopic, titled Goddess, which was never produced.

Keystone / Getty Images

They even worked their failed venture into Agent Cooper’s monologue in the series premiere: “There are two things that continue to trouble me, and I’m speaking now not only as an agent of the bureau but also as a human being. What really went on between Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys, and who really pulled the trigger on JFK.”

4. Actor Kyle MacLachlan axed the romantic storyline between Agent Dale Cooper and Audrey Horne.


“I’m not supposed to say it. But David knows I tell what happens, and what happened was that Lara [Flynn Boyle] was dating Kyle [MacLachlan], and she was mad that my character was getting more attention, so then Kyle started saying that his character shouldn’t be with my character because it doesn’t look good, ’cause I’m too young. Literally, because of that, they brought in Heather Graham — who’s younger than I am — for him and Billy Zane for me. I was not happy about it. It was stupid.” —Sherilyn Fenn

5. You can stay at the Great Northern Hotel for $230 a night.

Flickr / Creative Commons / fletcherjcm

6. The original Twin Peaks population count was 5,120, not 51,201.

Warner Bros.

According to the fan site Welcome to Twin Peaks: “It was supposed to be only a fraction of that, but afraid its viewers wouldn’t be able to relate to such a small town, ABC demanded Twin Peaks to be more populated. So David Lynch and Mark Frost appended a ‘1’ at the end.”

7. Despite the show’s success, the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was booed at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, and bombed at the U.S. box office.



“The movie is a true folly—almost nothing in it adds up—yet it isn’t jokey and smug like Lynch’s last film, Wild at Heart, or his recent TV series, the gruesomely wacked-out On the Air, which seemed to pick up where the disastrous second half of Twin Peaks left off. In Fire Walk With Me, he’s at least trying to recover his poetic sincerity. There have always been two sides to Lynch: the inscrutable, demonic prankster and the rhapsodic dreamer. If only his dreams weren’t starting to look like reruns.” —Owen Gleiberman, EW

8. At one point, Mikhail Gorbachev persuaded George H.W. Bush to help him unearth who killed Laura Palmer:

Gorbachev made HW Bush try and get Lynch to admit who killed Laura Palmer

— JahHills (@Ryan Hamilton Walsh)

9. Steven Spielberg was attached to direct the second season premiere, but Lynch insisted on directing the episode himself.

David Crane / Getty Images

“Because we were friendly we talked about it a lot and he said to me in passing how fun it would be to direct an episode so I went to Mark over the summer and said, ‘This probably is not a bad way to kick off the second season, right?’ So we sat down with him and had this very long meeting about the second season and Steven just said ‘I want it to be as weird as possible, it’ll be so much fun’ so whether or not he would have even done it – we’ll never really know, but when Mark told David he didn’t even hesitate saying, ‘No, no, I think I’ll direct the first one. Maybe he can direct later in the season’ – which he obviously didn’t.” —Twin Peaks producer Harley Peyton

10. It only took 20 minutes for David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti to come up with the theme song.

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images



The Love Theme, which is heard repeatedly throughout the series, is a short, twisted piece of music, lasting about three minutes. But the sheer speed and ease of its composition indicate what a happy collaboration Badalamenti and Lynch share.” —Ron Givens, EW

11. The bizarre vocal patterns in the Red Room were achieved by having the actors read their lines in reverse.

12. Josie Packard’s character was originally supposed to be Italian.


Timothy A. Clary / Getty Images


“For starters, she wasn’t even supposed to exist – the role was rewritten to suit actor Joan Chen’s Chinese heritage after Isabella Rossellini left the project.” —Sean T. Collins, Rolling Stone

13. Frank Silva (aka “Bob”) was also the show’s set decorator.

14. The zig-zagging black-and-white floor pattern in the Black Lodge was also featured in David Lynch’s film Eraserhead (1977).


Columbia Pictures


15. Zooey Deschanel’s dad directed three episodes, and her mom played Donna Hayward’s mother, Eileen.


Frederic J. Brown / Getty Images


16. Maddie Ferguson’s character is from Missoula, Montana, which is also David Lynch’s hometown.

17. A novel titled The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks (written by Mark Frost) will be published later this year to update readers on the lives of the main characters over the past 25 years.

Robert Mora / Getty Images

”’The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks,’ which has also been picked up all over the world, will go on sale in late 2015, ahead of Showtime’s revival of the series.” —Tim Kenneally, The Wrap

18. Peggy Lipton (aka Norma Jennings) is mom to Parks and Recreations actress Rashida Jones.


Anthony Harvey / Getty Images


The new Twin Peaks season will air on Showtime in 2016.

Showtime / Via

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Obama, “Say It To My Face”. If You Do, You are Covered Under Obama’s Plan

By S Daniel Miller, Guest Writer

Obama attacked John McCain in a recent TV interview, saying “Say It To My Face”. What is amusing about Obama’s response is that it is, in and of itself, an attack. Obama has been running a negative attack on McCain from day one. For him to criticize the McCain camp for any negative comment is laughable.

Obama has attacked every facet of the current administration and made every attempt to link McCain and the Bush Administration, no matter how different those policies are and no matter how different they are from the past. Obama started this dirty campaign during the primaries, and now he whines and cries wolf when McCain strikes back.

One of Obama’s best quotes ever.

“I am surprised that, you know, we’ve been seeing some pretty over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days, that he wasn’t willing to say it to my face. But I guess we’ve got one last debate. So presumably, if he ends up feeling that he needs to, he will raise it during the debate.”

Maybe McCain should, but then again why give Obama any chance to defend his radical positions. Should we give his nonsensical attacks equal time to the real issues. The Republicans should take a new tack. The Obama campaign is brilliant at promising America nirvana by spending money they do not have.  With the economy getting flushed down the toilet, neither man has the ability to deliver on any of the promises, so McCain may as well follow Obama’s lying lead and promise planetariums in every house, free real estate for every citizen, new appliances for every home owner.

As an example of the foolishness of the Democratic camp, one should consider heavily the promise of the Obama Health Plan. It is insane. He promises to cover pre-existing conditions, for anyone. In Massachusetts, they instituted the exact same plan last year. IDENTICAL. And after JUST ONE YEAR, premiums on most plans are up 40% in the state as healthy people are forced to pay for the sick. It is just another TAX people!! Welfare for the ill. They are just finding another way to tax you without your knowledge!!

In Massachusetts, and nationally, if Obama gets his way, your best bet is to just pay the tax penalties; they are vastly cheaper than the exorbitant price of insurance that has now exploded to about $20000 to $24000 a year for a decent plan. Then, just pay the doctor out of pocket. It is way cheaper for a person of normal health. And then, if you get sick, sign up!! You can be on the plan by the 1st of the ensuing month. GREAT PLAN!!

Massachusetts is obtuse in pursuing this kind of plan, and Obama is using it as a model. The result will be everyone will be forced to pay ridiculous medical premiums to support people that jump on the train just as they get seriously ill.

I am pregnant, honey, sign up for insurance.

I was just diagnosed with cancer, sign up for insurance.

I just had blood in my stool, sign up for insurance.

Our tax dollars at work.  Democrats need more of them.  Lots more.

ABC’s Charlie Gibson/Barack Obama Interview 10-8-08

Integrity Watch: Hey McCain…. Say it to His Face

Tuesday, October 7, 2008, Barack Obama carried himself with fluid ease and grace during the second and most recent presidential debate. He seemed to wear a steady, almost amused expression throughout the evening. Could it have been because he was calmly laying in wait of McCain to mention his association with William Ayers?

Obama seemed to grow more amused still, as the debate drew closer to the end. Was it because he realized that McCain would likely sidestep the issue altogether, which in turn could create quite the advantageous situation for Obama?

Such an advantageous moment arose when Barack Obama was interviewed by ABC’s Charlie Gibson, Wednesday night. Due to the recent effort of the McCain campaign to convince voters that Barack Obama is the wrong type of American, thus cannot to be trusted, Gibson questioned Obama as to whether he was surprised that John McCain failed to mention Obama’s relationship with William Ayers during the last debate. Obama replied with this:

“Well, I am surprised that, you know, we’ve been seeing some pretty over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days that he wasn’t willing to say it to my face.”

What a beautiful and brilliant move on Obama’s part.

In this play, Obama issues a clear challenge to McCain. He’s basically sayin’ *(wink)* to him, “Put up, or shut up.” Obama’s statement, no doubt, implies that he is willing to address the issue. It places McCain in a very precarious position, for certain. Ick!

I mean…really? What in creation is a maverick to do?

Let us assume that John McCain does not want to incorporate the subject of William Ayers into the next debate. What will he do, or not do, in the meantime?

Will McCain and Palin, in respect of campaigning, stop the terrorist association speech, and officially reprimand the vile rhetoric ascending from the crowds?

If the Straight Talk Express mutes its mention of Obama’s association with William Ayers over the next week leading to the debate, the GOP base might view McCain as folding under Obama’s challenge- “…he wasn’t willing to say it to my face.”

How does a bona fide alpha maverick justify backing down?

Not to mention that McCain suddenly opting out of the hate would present a clear admittance of guilt and evidence of wrongdoing in the minds of undecided voters. Tisk.

On the other hand, if McCain and Palin continue to incite lunacy along the campaign trail, and McCain again fails to mention Ayers during the final debate, it could serve to solidify the belief that John McCain and integrity, (are more than likely), not mutually exclusive. John McCain has accused Barack Obama of nothing short of travesty in the company of his followers, yet he cannot bring himself to take up the matter with the man, himself.

Of course, finally, if McCain decides to answer Obama’s challenge by introducing the William Ayers association into next week’s debate, voters may possibly see it as a desperate and misplaced move. After all, as Obama remarked to Gibson about McCain, “…he wasn’t willing to say it to my face.”

Really, Obama looks like Joe Pesci (Casino) right now…”Listen to me Anthony. I got your head in a ******* vise.”

Well, figuratively speaking, that is.

Dancing With the Stars Previews Shocking Talents and Has Beens! (Misty May Treanor, Lance Bass, Toni Braxton, Warren Sapp)

We haven’t covered Dancing With The Stars in the past because we thought it really a kind of goofy show.  People who can’t dance but happen to have star status dancing with greats that can dance but somehow missed star quality.

Sounds like a loser mix.  So we skipped it.

But this season looks to bring back some of the stars of the show that have proven they can dance and train others along with an array of relatively interesting stars.  Most of the stars are has beens or newly exposed folk looking to broaden their horizons.  No one comes on this show that doesn’t see it as a stepping stone to something else.  This year is nothing different in that regard.

Good Morning America got first dibs on listing the stars dubbed as the largest cast ever: two Olympic Gold medalists, a Grammy®-winning singer, a television legend, an Oscar® winner, and a Super Bowl champion!

As announced today on Good Morning America, in alphabetical order, the thirteen stars making their ballroom dancing debut on September 22nd 2008 are:

LANCE BASS – Super Gay and Super successful… perhaps a chance to show his masculine side so long as his partner doesn’t lead.  Lance is dancing with SYTYD Top 4 finalist Lacey Schwimmer! That should be interesting to watch!

TONI BRAXTON – Six Grammy’s?  What could this woman be thinking?

BROOKE BURKE – Oh my.  This gal is the hottest thing since, well…heat.  Why she wants to dance with the stars remains to be seen, but we are betting it was one hell of a contract!!

ROCCO DISPIRITO – A chef showing us is it is better to dance than eat?  We doubt he has much dance talent, even if he is Italian.

MAURICE GREENE – Greene won two gold medals, in the 100m sprint and the 4x100m relay at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.  We are guessing he hasn’t had much press since then, so now he needs to dance with a star.  Or was it him that was supposed to be the star?

KIM KARDASHIAN – Kimberly Noel “Kim” Kardashian.  OK, now we are getting somewhere.  Kim is clearly star quality and we don’t know if she can dance, but we honestly don’t care.  Obviously this is a chance at some exposure and we believe the more exposure this woman gets, the higher she goes.

CLORIS LEACHMAN – So yesterday!!

CODY LINLEY – Too young for us to care. Obvious stair stepping attempt.

SUSAN LUCCI – So yesterday!!

MISTY MAY-TREANOR – Now here we have someone interesting.  The Beach Volleyball champion Misty May-Treanor and partner Kerri Walsh captured their second Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and became the first team ever to repeat as back-to-back champs. The victory also marked their 108th straight match win. This white girl can jump, but can she dance?

TED MCGINLEY – Trying to make a comeback from the classic show “Married With Children”, Ted hasn’t done much since.  Time for some more exposure?  It can’t hurt before he gets to retirement age.

JEFFREY ROSS – A stand up comic with a need for exposure.

WARREN SAPP – When you retire from football, what do you do?  Dance with the Stars?  Perhaps Warren can find the hole.

The hosts: Tom Bergeron (America’s Funniest Home Videos) and Samantha Harris (E! Entertainment)

The judges: Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba.