Thankfully the extremely racist, two-part episode on Freeform’s grown-ish is behind us, but, unfortunately, the show’s not done spewing racism. Should we really expect anything else from a show that said white people are “inherently bad,” and featured a protestor holding a sign reading, “Put avocado on racism so white people will pay attention?”
On Thursday’s episode, “A Peace of Light,” main character Zoey (Yara Shahidi) is working at her new job as an intern for a fashion designer named Esme. Race is immediately inserted into the scene as Esme complains about a “white dude” who stole her fashion designs, leading Zoey to rant about wanting reparations to compensate black people for all of the ideas the world has stolen from them over the years:
Esme: You see this guy? He’s blowing up off the look we created almost two freakin’ years ago.
Zoey: Yeah, I remember the line. You had a pop-up fashion show on some helipad of a building downtown.
Zoey: I stood outside for two hours and was denied entrance because I had a nail file in my pocket.
Esme: Well, now, the fashion blogs are celebrating this white dude like he came up with it. It’s such nonsense.
Zoey: Yeah. But it’s nothing new, right? We innovate, and the world continues to appropriate. It’s too bad there’s not some sort of reparations for stuff like this, because if people wanted to “Keep it so real,” then they’d compensate black folks for years and years of stealing our ideas.
Later, Zoey discovers her exact words were credited to Esme in an online story, but Zoey’s boyfriend Aaron points out that those were actually his words and ideas that Zoey took from him. He reassures her, saying, “It doesn’t matter who said what as long as the message got out, right?” Zoey agrees and lets the matter drop.
But when she returns to work, she finds that Esme has stolen a design she made of a letterman jacket with the letter “Z” on the front for “Zoey,” but in Esme’s version, the “Z” stands for “Generation Z.” Hmm…does this mean that stealing ideas might have nothing to do with race at all and can happen to anyone, no matter the color of their skin? (The answer is yes, of course, but that’s not the lesson the show is preaching.)
Zoey discusses the problem with her friends, asking if they feel it was a “direct rip-off.” Her friends agree and Luca and Nomi are both in favor of her confronting Esme, while Ana (Francia Raisa) is worried Zoey might lose her scholarship and jeopardize her graduation if she stands up for herself.
When Nomi points out that Esme has likely done this before and will probably do it to others, Zoey agrees and decides to speak up to prevent it from happening to anyone else. But, when she goes to confront Esme, evil white people once again enter the picture. Literally:
Zoey: I couldn’t do it. I could not confront Esme.
Ana: What happened?
Zoey: Well… I went in all gung-ho to confront her… Hey, do you have a moment?
Esme: Yeah. Come on in. I’m just finishing up this e-mail. Okay. What’s up?
Zoey: Um… Well, I have your six packs of sweetener, stir sticks, madeleines. I hate to admit, I ate your cake pop.
Esme: Was there anything else?
Ana: Hey, I get it. You got cold feet. You needed to protect your internship.
Zoey: That’s not quite it. It’s more like — I just — I had to protect her. Okay, look, I saw this photo on Esme’s wall with her and just a bunch of white designers, and it dawned on me how many obstacles she’s had to overcome to make it in the fashion world. And then the one she’ll undoubtedly encounter as a brown woman in this world, period? I couldn’t be another one of those obstacles. I just can’t bring myself to call out another woman of color. So… I just want to let it go.
Ana: You know that I think you did the right thing. And you did it for even better reasons than I would have thought of. Really, I was just pushing for self-preservation, so congrats.
Zoey: Hey, if I’m not gonna stand up for the beautiful, high-cheekbone little guys, who will?
Ana: Proud of you.
Zoey continues in a voiceover, “while the incident with Esme may have dimmed my shine a little, it was also a boost to my confidence that someone like her took my design and made it her own. And honestly, I was okay with that. In fact, I felt really good about it because I knew setting aside my ego allowed the culture to shine a little brighter.”
Lesson learned? If a “white dude” steals ideas, he’s racist and did it for racist reasons. If a woman of color does it, she deserves to be protected because white people are “obstacles” that have to be overcome “to make it in the fashion world,” and in the world in general. It’s okay to let a “brown woman” steal and not calling it out allows “the culture to shine a little brighter.” Got it. Wow. Is it any surprise this show is a spinoff of the equally racist “comedy” black-ish?
Only two more episodes before this season is over, thankfully. As of this writing, there’s no word on whether the show will be renewed for another season, but let’s hope for the sake of ending racism and improving race relations in this country, that it’s canceled before it can spread any further hate.
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