The Black-ish HBCU Episode Wasn’t As Bad As You Think

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BLACK-ISH - "Black Math" - When Junior is accepted to Howard and Stanford, Dre tries to convince him to attend his alma mater. Meanwhile, Jack develops a comedy style and Ruby decides she's going to manage his career, forcing Diane to compete for her attention, on "black-ish," TUESDAY, APRIL 3 (9:00-9:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Byron Cohen) ANTHONY ANDERSON, MARCUS SCRIBNER

Tuesdays of this semester at my HBCU Fort Valley State University have been my busiest days. They’ve even been busier than Monday’s! Two back-to-back classes, a new book I’m trying to finish and filming for my first amateur documentary about student campaigns at HBCU’s (which starts next week). On top of that, the yard has been rich with events. Angela Rye came to speak at our John W. Davidson Lecture Series last Tuesday and we had the new Greeks come out in our joint probate, meaning that they had to turn up during their joint yard show yesterday. The Cafe and Library Patio were lively. The energy I felt at that moment was amazing. Experiencing the feeling of that moment where I saw all of our students congregating in one area having fun made me happy that I chose to attend an HBCU. The experience is priceless!

That’s why I was happy to see Black-ish finally take on the misconceptions about HBCU’s and showcase their beauty. Sure, I found out the episode was HBCU-centric after it went off thanks to Twitter. Granted The Quad, an actual HBCU show on BET, was having it’s season finale and I nearly missed that because I was hanging out on the yard with my peers talking about life and the direction FVSU was going with the new Greeks on campus and the upcoming elections. I hated that I missed the opportunity to comment on this episode live!

I finally got a chance to watch the episode, called “Black Math”. I saw the episode after seeing all of the tweets from HBCU alumni bashing this episode because of its depiction of HBCU’s and how it prepares us for society. Before I dive into the content of the episode, let me say that it’s clear Zoey should’ve been the one that went to an HBCU. I know it would send a A Different World season 1 vibe to Grown-ish but it fit her character more. However, Junior could benefit from going to an HBCU for sure and I would love to see them do a spinoff with Junior going to Howard University and put it on Freeform and show the other side of the HBCU experience!

Anyway, the episode starts off with Dre, Bow and Junior discussing his college choices. Junior gets accepted into Howard University and Stanford University respectively. Dre is happy, since Howard University is his alma mater (which is Anthony Anderson’s real alma mater). However, Junior wants to go to Stanford and Bow supports his decision 100%. Dre is distraught that Junior doesn’t even have an HBCU on the table to pick and decides to take him on the campus of Howard University to convince him that HU was the right choice.

This leads to Dre making a fool of himself and painting his experience as the monolithic black experience at an HBCU. The episode then turns to Rainbow and Dre having a conversation about Junior’s college choices and Dre, normally incredibly combative about anything black, concedes to the notion that “going to an HBCU makes you unprepared for the white world”. Black Twitter went crazy off that one! Of course, currently attending an HBCU in my third year, I disagree with this statement. We live in a white world. Going to an HBCU doesn’t make us unaware of how to deal with white people. If anything, it teaches us about who we are. It gives us confidence in ourselves and our ability to make a way out of no way. It gives us a voice and like-minded individuals to share our points of view with.

On that front, the episode lost me. Bow normally presents the less appealing view to the black argument (see the police brutality episode “Hope”). However, I saw what they were trying to do. Of course, they wanted to bring the comedy out of the situation while also presenting the other side of the HBCU argument about us not being relevant. However, Black-ish always excels at hitting a crescendo at the end of the episode where the hammer home the message that they want to convey.

Junior’s monologue about why he wanted to attend Howard was amazingly accurate. If anything, that was the saving grace of the episode! Plus, Dre was showing HBCU alumni love in his workplace discussion with his colleagues and affirmed why HBCU’s still mattered before the counter argument was presented. These aspects, to me, don’t make the episode horrible. I hate the underlying message that they sent but it didn’t unvalidate HBCU’s in any way. The ending was everything that needed to be conveyed about why HBCU life is so brilliant!

Speaking of the brilliance of HBCU life, let me go on and get ready for class. I’m about to watch Undisputed, featuring Savannah State University alumni Shannon Sharpe, and get ready to see what the new D9 Greeks have in store for Fried Chicken Wednesday in the cafe!

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