If ‘#BlackAF’ Makes You Uncomfortable, Maybe That’s the Point
Let’s get past idealism and find the comedy in our own flaws
Since #blackAF premiered on Netflix, Kenya Barris’ name has been under the internet’s microscope.
With his $100 million Netflix development deal, I assumed Barris would push the envelope and create content that didn’t need network approval, and I anticipated he’d be able to do whatever the hell he wanted. With #blackAF, he’s done just that — and made a lot of Black folks #madAF in the process.
#BlackAF puts the spotlight on a famous comedy writer living in L.A. with his wife and six children. Like Barris’ mega-successful sitcom Black-ish, #blackAF depicts a family based on Barris’ own — just with a darker, Curb Your Own Enthusiasm–style sensibility. Barris plays a funhouse-mirror version of himself: selfish, neurotic, and basically horrible.
If some Black people don’t identify with ‘#blackAF,’ that’s fine. But don’t condemn the brother for bringing to life this particular Black family’s #blackAF-ness.
But that unapologetic tone — along with some other qualities — led to some heated reactions on social media. One person said the show was like watching a White family in Blackface. And those who had no idea Rashida Jones is Quincy Jones’ daughter could not wrap their heads around a show called #blackAF when Rashida appears to be “White passing.”
It only took me a few minutes into the pilot to understand that it’s satirical. Isn’t satire supposed to make us uncomfortable? Legendary Black comedians like Richard Pryor, Paul Mooney, and Dave Chappelle have made careers inviting audience outrage. Even SNL’s Weekend Update makes us uncomfortable at times. Satire pushes every one of our buttons, and it’s supposed to.
On an intellectual, logical tip, we do understand that Black people are not a monolith, yes? Okay, good.
Two terms I can’t stand for a variety of reasons always float around social media: “Black girl magic” and “unapologetically Black.” These terms are used for Black people who accomplish fantastic, seemingly impossible feats, or for…