Why ‘Black-ish’ is the Show To Watch From a Cross-Cultural and Hidden Diversity Perspective

Black-ish (Image courtesy ABC)

Diversity is not constricted to how you look or your race, it is much more than that. Diversity is more than what meets the eye. When I think diverse, I think of more than one or a collection of ideologies, upbringings, and thought processes.

While some of these differences may be obvious, many of these are not. With hidden diversity in mind, we can now look at the ABC television show “Black-ish” and its cast members.

“Black-ish,” starring Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, is a show that has a perspective on many topics and ideologies that are presented in a light, yet meaningful way.

In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Tracee Ellis Ross had this to say when asked “What is Black-ish?”:

In terms of what the show expresses, being black is not a monolithic experience. So our show explores what it is to be black today and how that evolved and how it’s changing and what that experience is for this family. 

With that said, it gives an opening window into the concept of the 21st century citizen. This concept can’t be explained without understanding cultural mobility. To be culturally mobile is to spend time during your developmental years in one or more cultures that are different from your passport culture. With that exposure you gain elasticity and flexibly in understanding and realizing the cultures that co-exist with one another.

Sociologist David Pollock called such people “the prototype citizen of the future.” We call them “21st Century Citizens.”

Let’s jump into a couple of the cast and characters:

Yara Shahidi (playing the role of Zoey) is the perfect example of hidden diversity. While off set, you may think she is just African-American due to her looks, she is in fact half African-American and half Iranian-American. She brings not only outstanding acting but also a cross-cultured perspective to the set.

Shahidi was brought up into thinking in more than one way about anything. She may be born in the United States, but she carries her Iranian roots as well.

In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Shahidi expressed her excitement toward the first day of the Persian New Year saying:

It’s an exciting first day of spring because it is also the first day of the Persian New-Years, and I’m half Iranian, and so it is the beginning of the best holiday ever. It is a continuation of the celebration of life, spring and health, and getting ready to take on the next year.

She also said that “Iranians have it down pat when it comes to how to celebrate.” 

Shahidi’s values relate to some concepts of the show, like being proud of their African heritage as a family.

Tracee Ellis Ross. Curtesy of Zimbio.

Tracee Ellis Ross plays the role of Dr. Rainbow. In the show (and in real life) she is bi-racial. However, the twist on the show is that her parents are hippies. This gives her a different thought process than husband, Mr. Johnson.

In the show, she is portrayed as open-minded and liberal, because of her upbringing within the hippie culture.

The role of Mr. Johnson, played by Anthony Anderson, however represents a different side of the spectrum which is a traditional, church raised African-American.

The differences in their characters represent what Ross was talking about in her interview with Stephen Colbert, i.e. how there is change and an evolvement of what it means to be Black.

That alone shows that there is more than what the eye meets with this family than just being what looks like an African-American family.


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