I knew from the trailer that Mixed-ish, the spinoff from Black-ish would be trouble. But I decided to give the show a fair chance and watch the first episode that came out last week. It goes back in time in the life of Rainbow, a biracial woman. Way back to when she was growing up in a commune—actually a cult—which is hardly the same history as other biracial people in America in the 1980s. In fact, Tracee Ellis Ross, whose mother is Diana Ross and father is Robert Ellis Silverstein, didn’t have a “normal” upbringing. My own children were born in the 80s and they had none of the experiences of “Bow” and her two siblings.
Everything these three children went through was problematic, especially going to school. One other student called them weirdos and asked what they were mixed with. Oh, that again. But here they are made fun of, taunted and laughed at. Do we really need this kind of story about biracial children? What purpose does it serve? It certainly doesn’t right any wrongs done to multiracial people in the 1980s or in 2019. Perhaps it tries to teach a little history—with a bad attitude. I know you’re thinking “but this just a TV show,” but lots of people believed that Archie Bunker and everyone like him was racist, that Lucille Ball was just an airhead, and that Sanford was only a junkyard failure. Do we really need our biracial children to see themselves as exaggerated comedy characters?
Don’t even get me started on the show’s theme song by Mariah Carey, which mentions how mixed-up everyone is.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who plays the father, is also biracial: white and Asian, but no one even mentions that fact in the trailer or premier. I think it’s important in a show about biracial, excuse me, “mixed-ish” people. Children need to learn that multiracial and multiethnic backgrounds are important. What they don’t need to learn is that it means trouble at every mention of the word.
I really felt sorry for the kids when their parents insinuate that they will have to pick one race. The son chooses black and one of the daughters picks white, which makes the parents wonder if they should have spoken to the kids about race and prepared them for reactions from other people. We parents needed to do that in the 1980s and we still do now. There is absolutely no reason not to, unless you watch this show. If you don’t watch Mixed-ish, you may feel just fine about choosing as many as apply. Feel proud about it, and not forced into any identity.
The producers of the show feel as though they are making important historical information available for television watchers. The risk is when the historical information is wrong. Beware of what you learn from this show. In other words, do your own homework. This isn’t a matter of what’s important to learn, it’s a question of right and wrong.
Let’s take a quick look at another related issue. Another “mixed” organization is promoting Mixed-ish and reminding the crowd of its premier. They happen to be the same group who brought you a video on how to do hair recently. It makes sense that they would give both a heads up. Project RACE, on the other hand, is working closely with the U. S. Census Bureau on the 2020 Census, and preparing political videos. We have produced programs for children and teens so that they are better informed. I guess it just matters where your interests lie.
So be careful where you get your information and if its interests are the same as yours. You can change your hair every day, but things like voting, self-identification, being counted in the 2020 Census, and learning the correct history are no less important in your life or in this world.
Susan Graham for Project RACE
Photo Credit: TVInsider