The Feb. 24 episode of “Black-ish” will take on police brutality, Variety has learned.
The episode, titled “Hope,” will revolve around a fictional incident of police brutality that Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) and Andre “Dre” Johnson (Anthony Anderson) discuss with family members, including the couple’s four children. Much of the episode will focus on various characters’ reactions as they watch a news broadcast about the case, which involves an African-American teenager’s encounter with police.
As was the case when the family talked about the issue of guns in the home, members of the Johnson clan do not necessarily see eye-to-eye about what the kids should know and when they should know it. Rainbow would like to shield the kids, especially the younger ones, from life’s harsher realities as long as she can, while Andre feels that they need to know about the challenges of the world they’re living in as soon as is practical. Pops (Laurence Fishburne) and Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) tend to side with Dre, but the conversations are wide-ranging and impassioned on all sides.
“Unfortunately the things that we are dealing with in this episode are not new, especially to the black and brown community. It’s something that’s been going on for quite some time,” Anderson told Variety.
Creator and executive producer Kenya Barris said the desire to take on the issue came from his own attempts to talk to his kids about various incidents of police brutality that made the news.
“We’re not ‘Law & Order’ — we’re not trying to rip things from the headlines,” Barris said. Bow and Dre talking to their kids about what they see on the news “is what this family would naturally be going through.”
“What we’re really taking on is the notion of, how do you talk to your kids about what they’re seeing?’” Barris added. His own kids “were seeing people in the streets mad. And they were like, ‘What’s going on? Why are these people so angry?’ It was this big division at my house, because I had my feelings that I wanted to spout out. But my wife had her feelings and the biggest thing is, how do you talk about your frustrations and your angers, but at the same time not take away your kids’ hope and ability to still want to grow and thrive within a world that they have to live in?”
“I commend Kenya for writing this episode and giving a voice to this problem and to bring some attention to it, outside the attention that it’s getting in the media and social media,” Anderson said.
As evidenced when the show took on guns in the home and “The N Word,” “Black-ish” will remain true to its mission to be funny, but Barris and Anderson said they’d wanted to take on the topic of police brutality for some time, even though, as Barris noted, the idea of doing this episode was “scary.”
“I’m a huge fan of Norman Lear, and I really wanted to just do a conversation,” Barris said. “We decided to just see what happens when you turn on that television, and you have to have that conversation that you’re not ready to have, and there’s a lot of different opinions in the room and no one’s quite sure of how to talk to the kids. We just went from there.”