Talking Light-Skinned Privilege in the Black-ish Colorism Episode

I honestly think Black-ish is one of the best sitcoms of all time. Network sitcoms tend to be very formulaic, often to the extent of dumbing down any potential for intelligent humor for the masses. And even when we do get lucky with a hit network sitcom like Friends or Modern Family, you’ll notice the writing often peters out after Season 3 or 4 as the show progresses. To me, Black-ish has managed to avoid all of these traps – and tackle some incredibly difficult topics along the way.

Season 5 has been no different, and the writers continue to swing for the fences. The episode “Black Like Us” aired on January 15th, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. In this episode, Diane isn’t lit properly for her class photo, sparking a heated family debate about colorism and light-skinned privilege. The show opens with a short animation introducing viewers to a brief historical and cultural context about colorism.

It’s not talked about a lot here in the U.S., but light-skinned privilege is pervasive in Asian culture too, which made me very happy to see Asian people included in the Black-ish video. Whether you travel to Thailand, Japan, China, or Korea, fair skin prevails. In Thailand specifically, where my family is from, being a half-white/ half Asian model or actress is your ticket to fame, or at least help you break into the entertainment industry. Light-skinned privilege is a complicated issue woven into our culture with a lot of ugly, painful historical roots around the world that I won’t get into here. But in our everyday lives, we can start by being more aware and taking notice of how it shapes our own perceptions of beauty and the beauty standards that deserve questioning or dismantling altogether.

Watch the full animated video on ABC’s website.