‘Black-ish’ Season 4 Premiere Recap: ‘Hamilton,’ Juneteenth and Columbus Day
The Black-ish season four premiere was one of the hit ABC sitcom's most ambitious episodes to date. With Columbus Day around the corner and ongoing racial tension in America, show creator Kenya Barris opened season four with a Hamilton-inspired look at Juneteenth, Columbus Day and patriotism.
As the twins Jack and Diane perform during a Christopher Columbus play at school, Dre creates a fuss over the number of minority children that suddenly appeared at school. The twins' oblivious teacher (unintentionally) refers to the minority students as "colored children," which prompts Dre to interrupt the play and take his kids off the stage.
At work, Dre attempts to educate his reliably witless co-workers about Juneteenth; the holiday that celebrates June 19th, 1865, the day slaves legally gained freedom. Dre wants Columbus Day to disappear, and Juneteenth to be celebrated because it's "the day everyone was free."
With an assist from Aloe Blacc, (who decides to help communicate Dre's ideas via music), The Roots show up for an animated sequence inspired by School House Rock's famous "I'm Just a Bill" (reimagined here as "I'm Just a Slave.") It's a jumping-off point for the cast to talk about the legacy of slavery and racism in America.
Dre's boss tries to point out that "they" already have MLK Day and Black History Month and doesn't understand why "they" need another day of celebration. Dre's response was simple: "We don't have anything that celebrates the end of slavery." A second musical sequence called "We Built This" explains how slaves built this country as the song shares facts about slavery i.e. slave labor equating to some $300 billion of the country's economy.
Back at home, Dre discusses the duality of being Black in America. "White people hate feeling uncomfortable," he says. "[So] we do everything we can to make them comfortable. We change the way we talk; we straighten our hair."
Dre comes to realize he can't push a day of celebration for a day he's only just begun to care about himself. So he wraps the episode with: "When America is ready to apologize, hopefully we'll be ready to forgive them."
The cast sings "Juneteenth" as the credits roll, ending with Dre standing with his fist in the air and wearing a black shirt that reads "I am my ancestors wildest dreams."
“It is a love it or hate it episode," Barris explained to Entertainment Weekly. “I feel like any time you take a swing, and at the conceit of that swing, you’re saying, ‘talking about this makes people uncomfortable,’ then when you talk about it, you theoretically might make people uncomfortable. So, I did not have any question that it was going to be something that made people uncomfortable.”