When Cal U threatens to close the historically black dorm on campus, Zoey ends up in the middle of a campus-wide debate about race, politics, and safe spaces, with Aaron and Ana on opposing sides. @luvthispayne reviews this week’s grown-ish, “Safe and Sound.”
Whadup y’all! I hope you’re having a great week so far. I really enjoy our mid-week meetups to discuss #grownish This week’s episode was a lot. If last week’s episode was my favorite episode to date, then this week’s episode has to be my least favorite. I don’t think this particular recap will be very popular. But let’s talk about it anyway.
The episode opens with Zoey standing in the mirror in her room getting dressed. Sis is in a black beret and her outfit makes her look like she could be an extra in Beyonce’s Formation video. While definitely cute, she explains that she’s selected her outfit of choice because she’s going to protest “The Man.” Aight so boom! First pause is right here and let’s discuss an initial problem I have with this moment. The idea that “woke” is simply an aesthetic or look that is achieved through wearing specific paraphernalia is troubling at best and irresponsible at worst.
The look Zoey is going for is reminiscent of the attire the Black Panthers wore during the Civil Rights Movement. In more recent times, people have tried to solidify their “wokeness” with clothing a la t-shirts that say things like “I am not my grandparents, you can catch these hands” or “melanated” or “WOKE AF” and so on and so on. My problem is that our social consciousness is not a costume, and while I absolutely understand (and do myself from time to time) the desire to display racial pride in what we wear, we have to be cautioned against doing so in a way that is meaningless and reduces our movements down to a costume. The fight for equity, fair treatment and civil rights should not be reduced to a protest “LOOK.” Folks like Zoey will don the wardrobe of resistance without actually understanding what and who they are resisting and that is dangerous because it trivializes the causes people care about. Eg., See women’s march and pussy hats…… But I digress! Zoey’s motives are made even more evident when she demonstrates that she misunderstands how protests are run and when she feels like people didn’t give her enough credit for her woke attire. *EXASPERATED SIGH*
It was in this moment that I realized just how shallow Zoey can be. She addresses that later in the episode, though I am not sure I am satisfied with her answer. Anyway, who is the man that she’s dressed to protest? Glad you asked, well apparently there was a theme party at Hawkins Hall, which is the historically black dorm on campus. At the party, many of the black students were dressed in Black Panther gear and a couple of white students attended and felt uncomfortable. This was the second time white students had attended a party at Hawkins and felt a way. (there was an NWA party too) As a result, complaints were filed and the administration is now attempting to close Hawkins. Ain’t this just like white folks to come to your space where you glorify your stuff and it makes them uncomfortable?! SMH. For those of you that have watched since #blackish y’all know this isn’t the first time the administration has tried to close Hawkins Hall. When Zoey first visited Cal U, she accidentally advocated for Dean Parker to close Hawkins Hall and thats how she initially met Aaron. Aaron has been soldiering for a long time to keep this dorm open. Not at all surprised this issue has come up again. What is equally frustrating though is that it seems Zoey’s depth hasn’t grown much since that first visit. Le. Sigh.
Anyway, they are trying to close the dorm, and Aaron and the other black students and members of the BSU are trying to keep Hawkins open so they are organizing a protest. Ana and Nomi decide to pitch in as well since the issue impacts their closest friends. Let me just say that I will not mention Nomi much more during this recap because her antics made me a little upset. Truthfully, it pissed me off. As everyone is working on their signs or discussing strategy, she is bartending which at first glance is a good thing because the students might need a little something to take the edge off. The problem is she’s named the drinks after Civil Rights’ icons and other racially charged names. Its hella tone deaf. Drinks like the Rose’ Parks, Ale Sharpton, Tequila Mockingbird, 40 Acres & a Moscow Mule, or an I am Not Your Negroni. What’s worse is that Sky and Jazz mention that they told her to stop earlier and essentially she kept going. SO basically, she’s dead in the recap.
Moving right along. All seems to be going well in the planning until Ana and Aaron start discussing how she wishes that her group could have a space like Hawkins as well. Aaron foolishly believes that when she says her group that she is referencing her fellow Latinas but she is actually talking about conservative women. This causes the conversation plummets into chaos because Aaron doesn’t believe that conservatives need a safe space on campus and I am more than inclined to agree.
Aaron and the twins accurately point out that conservatives don’t need a safe space on campus because their safe spaces are Congress, the white house, every reddit thread, AM radio programs, and basically any Cracker Barrel. Aaron further explains, as a black person, basically everywhere you go in America its saturated with white conservatives which is why Hawkins Hall is a necessity. Seriously, for like the first time I am SUPER agreeing with Aaron. It does NOT make a hint of sense that a Latina can be a republican. Ana retorts that it’s because she believes in a lot of their policies. But Aaron isn’t backing down and wants to know specifically which policies she believes in, the ones that oppress black people or the ones that oppress poor people. COME ON A-ARON. LISTEN!!!! I was shouting because FAX no printer.
Like a true conservative Ana rebuts that big government oppresses people not conservatives and then she gives an example about how there are no concealed carry laws in Cali. Lets just say in the wake of Parkland I wanted to kick my television over. Ana, taking a page from the book of white feminists who do not understand intersectionality, then had the unmitigated gall to say that conservatives seem to be the only group that it is okay to openly hate on and that they are like the most oppressed group on campus. Sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
By the way this is super realistic because the minute you try to create or maintain spaces of inclusion for marginalized people, conservatives and the majority will attempt to thwart that attempt because they aren’t specifically included. It is EXHAUSTING! And let’s be clear, safe spaces and spaces of inclusion HAVE to be created because for YEARS and YEARS the majority have kept marginalized folks out of them. See: Affirmative Action. I am sick of y’all!
Here is where the episode starts to sort of nose dive for me and doesn’t ever recover. After the disagreement between Ana and Aaron, which, to be PERFECTLY clear, I am 100% in agreement with Aaron, Ana decides to leave. Zoey heads into her internship to blow off some steam and clear her head. That’s when Luca shows up. Zoey begins to tell Luca what happened and how Aaron and the BSU folks are organizing to keep Hawkins open because its their safe space, and now Ana suddenly wants her own safe space for conservative women on campus and they cannot agree. It’s here when Luca explains that their generation is softer than Drake and that the needs for safe spaces is essentially coddling them. “All a safe space is, is a bunch of people sitting around agreeing with each other.” He says that people have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and Zoey eats it up. She takes it to mean that maybe their generation needs a little more discomfort. SKKKKRRRRTTTTT. Second, pause right here.
Okay, shit, where to start? Well let’s start with Luca’s comment about being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Facially, this is a true statement. In fact, people use this often when talking about going through life changes and transitions. It’s often in our discomfort that we are being moved to a higher place, but this usually in response to careers or ambition. However in the context that Zoey and Luca are discussing, this mantra doesn’t fit.
Aaron and the BSU are fighting to keep open the ONE dorm on campus that makes them feel like they aren’t minorities, where they can cohabitate and enjoy being with and around other black students on a campus that is otherwise a sea of white. To say that having this desire is weak, fragile, or simple is both misguided and internalized oppression and frankly I am not here for it. This whole “FAKE DEEP” approach of Luca’s is BULLSHIT and I am calling him on it. Do you know why MARGINALIZED people NEED safe spaces on college campuses Luca? Because folks hang monkey dolls by nooses on trees, or spray paint epithets on walls, or hang bananas on ropes, or fly confederate flags. It’s not being SENSITIVE TO WANT TO HAVE A SPACE CARVED OUT ON CAMPUS WHERE THESE ISSUES DO NOT EXIST. See this 2017 NBC News article HERE.
I was furious and still am because that crock of shit reasoning from Luca essentially tells folks like me and other marginalized groups to hey just get over it. Or just let it roll off your back when these oppressive situations have real lasting impacts on people’s mental health. That marginalized and oppressed people are somehow sensitive for wanting a dedicated space to embrace each and other and be embraced is damaging. And Zoey just goes with it. Ugh. I want her to be able to think for herself sometimes. She takes Luca’s message and turns it into, a gotta hear both sides kind of thing. I don’t know who they hell told y’all that we are required to hear “both sides” when one side believes that my basic human rights are not a guarantee. You gotta hear both sides in a Jordan vs. Lebron debate or a sugar or salt on grits debate. But I am not and WILL not hear both sides when its a republican whose policies and beliefs routinely harm, hurt, and oppress people of color and poor people. Nah. Shit, even just this week republicans rolled back regulations that require banks to report about the types of loans they are providing to people, a deregulation which is mostly likely going to negatively impact poor people; specifically poor people of color.
Ultimately, they end the episode with a let’s all just get along moment and come to an agreement to agree to disagree. This type of messaging is dangerous and we largely see it play out with race. I guarantee you that no one tells Jewish folks to hear both sides of story about the Holocaust. No one tells the LGBTQIA+ people that they have to hear both sides of people arguing that they don’t have the right to exist. In both examples, both of those groups are RIGHTFULLY justified in not having to listen to people who spew rhetoric or support policies that jeopardize their existence or ability to live whole and full lives. I am tired of folks expecting black folks to not do the same. grown-ish is written by Barris who frequently pushes conversations of race on black-ish and I expected better from the writes’ room in this episode. The arguments were shallow and not well thought out and the messaging was off. What’s most jarring is that in the time of the alt-right showing up on college campuses to taunt and torment folks, I would think that the show’s creators would have presented a more thought out and careful messaging.
As for this recap, the message I want you to take away is that you are not required to hear your oppressors out. Say what you want, but as a black woman, conservative republican policies ROUTINELY harm me and people who look like me. I for one am not hearing their got damn side when it includes arguing about diminishing my rights to choose what happens with my body, whether banks can approve me for predatory loans, how to limit my access to the voting booth, or how to continue to keep tons and tons of folks who look like me incarcerated. F*** that! See y’all next week!