By: STEVEN UNDERWOOD
Being black and an academic is hard enough without being impossibly ghetto as well. Not to speak of my background like its a flaw, but in the world of Academia, there seems to be little to no sympathy for the loud, outlandish and often-times bare knuckle politics that come from street life. GROWN-ISH has somehow found a way to incapsulate the endeavors people like me — like Jazz and Sky (played by Chloe x Halle) — endure whilst in Academia.
People mistake my loudness for a threat, or my passion for aggression. Your words measured for literal and your prosecuted for it, and you learn a lot of what you perceived was right was in fact, so wrong it is humiliating you thought otherwise. However, there are other moments. Moments where you rightful outrage and disgust is turned into some cartoonish outburst of a toddler, and you are outwardly disrespected as some silly hoodrat with ridiculous tendency.
Yara Shahidi’s Zoey Johnson is definitely of an upper echelon. Her family is wealthy: and often she is disconnected from the problems of others. As her friends reveal, some people aren’t in college for the fun of it or the expectation: some people are carrying the legacies of their entire families on their back and a pressure to succeed that is as alienating as it is challenging. What doesn’t help is that the few black people — if you can even relate to them — sometimes don’t share your issues and, worse, reflect the white washed narratives of wealth you often try to escape.
The pivotal scene happened in the series’ fourth episode: “Starboy” where Zoey is trying to communicate her rejection of a formal relationship with her tutee, Cash Mooney (get the joke?). Zoey goes on her typical rant to her friends, throwing all of her problems at their feet and waiting for them to help (oddly, they always seem focused on only her problems and she’s starting to seem like a very bad friend). Things comedically, and momentarily escalate when Zoey calls the twins rediculous, and created one of the best exchanges in television. Period.
I hate to say power moves like this aren’t attempted in College between friends. But they are. There is an atmosphere amongst first time college students to try to replicate a hierarchy that just doesn’t work amongst mutually ambitious individuals. For most people, the idea that you shouldn’t be trying such tactics doesn’t occur until, perhaps, Junior year. However, the environment gets all too real when you’re being threatened and from a background that you combat threats not with words — but with action.
Don’t call me names. Don’t try to belittle my awareness or intelligence. Don’t sit there and smile while you’re doing it: I’m not gonna throw shade. I might just throw you.
A very reasonable response to an antagonistic behavior. Yet, the impulse that you are wrong is so strong, you second guess it and then, you end up apologizing for a very logical response to someone getting an attitude with you.
I’m enjoying this depiction of the many faces of College as a millenial. I think it’s very necessary to see characters like Jazz and Sky, characters who wrestle with their personalities and upbringing, but rejecting the notion you have to be ashamed of where you come from, rather you should be qualified to embrace it.
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