The entire piece reads as if Peyser doesn’t regularly watch the show and has only read basic episode summaries, and bases a good portion of her opinion on a petition started nearly a year ago, months before the show premiered, (and with only 243 of its “1 Million Strong” claim) by someone who had an issue with the show’s title. On paper, it is, admittedly, a questionable title (though this is the network that brought us Cougar Town and Trophy Wife) but it’s one that makes complete sense within the context of the show (if, you know, you watch it). Plus, simple research will lead to creator Kenya Barris explaining that the phrase “black-ish” does not refer to black characters who, as Peyser puts it, “are not black at all” but rather about the filtered, privileged environment that his Barris’ (and fictional Andre’s) children have in comparison to his experiences growing up in Inglewood — a privilege that is explicitly explored in the hilarious “Martin Luther Skiing Day” episode.
Even just the term “black-ish” alone contradicts Peyser’s main argument about the show promoting racial stereotypes: It is a term actively destroying the shucking, jiving, or gang-banging stereotypes that television too-often delighted in when shoving a black character into a network sitcom. (Oddly enough, Peyser’s relatively more positive paragraph about Empire notes that the characters are musicians and a former drug dealer which, when put forth so briefly, can certainly seem stereotypical, especially in comparison to Black-ish.) The “black-ish” family on Black-ish are not stereotypes but instead well-rounded and unique — an advertising executive, a doctor, an awkward nerd, and a shallow popular girl are character traits that were once largely reserved for white characters. Why, then, are they suddenly traits that provide “sick ethnic jokes” or “racist drivel”? The “ethnic jokes” and stereotypes that are present in the show don’t make black people the butt of the jokes; rather, the punchline is Johnson family’s reaction — like Andre’s offended response when his son’s white friend waltzes into the Johnson home and expects the fridge to be full of grape soda.
It’s hard to really unpack Peyser’s argument because there isn’t much of one to begin with — it’s also hard to take the sentence “Ask Donald Trump” seriously when applied to any argument, let alone one against a sitcom about a black family. This isn’t to say that Black-ish is a perfect television show above reproach (and it certainly isn’t to say that multicultural shows can’t be racist) but this isn’t a thoughtful, measured criticism but instead a hastily-written essay written around a poorly constructed, clickbait headline. It smacks of desperation and an attempt to create controversy when there isn’t one. It’s a piece that doesn’t at all exposes the sitcom’s racial insensitivities, but rather those of the author.