Black-ish Starts the New Season with the N-Word

Posted on September 24, 2015 at 12:56 pm

I loved the first season of “Black-ish” and am delighted that the first episode of its sophomore season is, if anything, even better. The youngest son in the family, Jack Johnson (Miles Brown), gets in trouble for using the n-word in a school talent show when he performs the Kanye West song “Gold Digger.” (Note that when “Glee” did the song they wisely left that word out.) As the entire auditorium gasps, Jack’s twin sister (Marsai Martin) says she begged him to do the radio edited version. Jack is expelled, due to the “zero tolerance” policy urged on the school by his mother, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross). And this gives everyone on the show, white and black and biracial, senior citizen and teenager, to talk about the word and who should or should not use it.

New York Magazine has a great behind the scenes article about what went into the making of this episode.

The day before the show aired, Barris admitted to Vulture that he was “terrified” about releasing the episode, but he thinks it’s the right time for our country to have this discussion.

Why did you decide to do an entire show about this word but we never hear it? In every instance, you bleeped it.

It was an easier entry point. Hearing it is a little bit hard. The bleep in a weird way makes you hear it even louder. But it still allows you to get into the drama and the comedy of the scene without making you feel ostracized. You’re still hearing it as loud, if not louder, than ever before. That was the biggest thing — not to have a barrier to the comedic entry point.

It was impressive how you packed in all these points of view and how conflicted people are and how charged the issue is, depending on who you are. How hard was it to balance all of that since you’re doing a sitcom and don’t have a lot of time?

We really wanted to make it like a documentary — a moment in a family’s life that would just start a conversation. That’s what we try to do for the show in general — just start a conversation. In a Norman Lear–esque kind of way, we try to show the different points of views on different topics because that’s what a family is. I have five kids, and people can say nature versus nurture. But it is nature! Nurture has so little to do with it. I have five kids and there are five totally different people in my house. Whenever you put a family together they may share some points of views and morals, but there are going to be differences. The other thing you get from your family is how you deal with other people’s point of view. That’s the learned behavior — how you allow yourself to exit a conversation differently from when you enter it.

Related Tags:


Behind the Scenes Race and Diversity Television
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik