A Simplistic View of a Mixed-ish America

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2019-10-26 18:34Z by Steven

A Simplistic View of a Mixed-ish America

The Atlantic

Hannah Giorgis

ABC / Byron Cohen

ABC’s Black-ish spinoff joins a new memoir by Thomas Chatterton Williams in presenting a seemingly enlightened but ahistorical view of race.

Mixed-ish, the prequel of the Tracee Ellis Ross–fronted sitcom Black-ish, begins with a rupture. At the tender age of 12, Rainbow “Bow” Johnson (played by Arica Himmel) is ejected from the hippie commune where she and her family live. As the adult Bow, Ross narrates the predicament that follows the government raid of the utopian community: Bow’s black mother and white father must now raise their three biracial children in the harsh world of mid-1980s suburban America. Though it’s set during the broader tumult of the Reagan era, Mixed-ish is driven by the identity crisis that Rainbow and her siblings, Johan and Santamonica, face. On their first day at their new school, the trio are stopped by a pair of dark-skinned students who ask them, “What are you weirdos mixed with?” When the fairer-skinned Johnson kids naively respond, “What’s ‘mixed’?” their classmates laugh.

Ross, who also serves as a series writer and executive producer, talks viewers through this confrontation in a didactic voiceover. “I know the idea of not understanding what it means to be mixed sounds crazy, but you have to understand—growing up on the commune, race wasn’t a thing,” she says. “Do you have any idea how many more mixed babies there are today? Probably because interracial marriage was illegal until the Loving Act of 1967,” she explains, adding that she and her siblings were “were basically the beta testers for biraciality.” In this scene and in later episodes, Mixed-ish falls into the trap of framing its protagonists as pioneers of mixed-race consciousness, rather than inheritors of a long and complex history…

…In addition to Mixed-ish, Loving and the mythos surrounding it has provided fodder for another recent work about biraciality. In his new book, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, the author Thomas Chatterton Williams notes that his “black” father and “white” mother met the year after the Loving decision. (In an author’s note, Williams explains that he sought “to cast doubt on and reject terms … such as ‘white,’ ‘black,’ ‘mixed,’ ‘biracial,’ ‘Asian,’ ‘Latino,’ ‘monoracial,’ etc.” by placing them in quotation marks.) The author’s second memoir, Self-Portrait was inspired by a moment of shock. When Williams’s white French wife gave birth to their daughter, he was stunned to see that the child had blond hair. The baby’s appearance upended Williams’s self-conception: How could he, a biracial man who’d identified as black and written Obama-era columns about his future children being undeniably black, produce a child who looked, well, white?…

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‘Mixed-ish’ Team on Why ‘All Stories About “Others” Are Necessary’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2019-09-16 18:54Z by Steven

‘Mixed-ish’ Team on Why ‘All Stories About “Others” Are Necessary’


BreAnna Bell

Gary Cole, Christina Anthony, Tika Sumpter, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Peter Saji, Karin Gist, Mykal-Michelle Harris, Ethan William Childress and Arica HimmelABC 'Mixed-ish' TV show presentation, Arrivals, PaleyFest, Los Angeles, USA - 14 Sep 2019
CREDIT: David Buchan/Variety/Shutterstock

The producers and cast of “Mixed-ish” are not out to tell a singular black and white story — but one that showcases and celebrates all shades in between.

“It’s important for me across the board in all of my work to talk about ‘otherness’ and identity and real, grounded characters,” showrunner Karin Gist told Variety at the PaleyFest Fall Previews panel for the new ABC comedy on Saturday. “This is just another example of that — an example of putting something up for everybody to talk about think about have conversations about through these characters that you fall in love with. It’s a story about ‘others’ that I think is necessary and I think all stories about ‘others’ are necessary.”

In the newest addition to Kenya Barris’ “ish” universe, Gist and fellow executive producer Peter Saji shine a light on “Black-ish” Johnson family matriarch Rainbow’s (played by Tracee Ellis Ross in “Black-ish” and Arica Himmel in “Mixed-ish”) origin story. The pilot begins when the hippie commune in which she was raised gets raided and her family has to move to the suburbs. The young Rainbow and her siblings (Mykal-Michelle Harris, Ethan William Childress) are left to navigate race and capitalism in the “real world.”…

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Unlike Bow, my light skin doesn’t come from a place of love or consent, but is instead a constant reminder of the violent transgressions my ancestors faced.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-12-12 21:59Z by Steven

And this is where it gets personal, because for a lot of us lightskinned black people, there is no conflict. While many have asked which one of my parents is white or what I’m “mixed with,” I’m not mixed at all. Both of my parents are black, but a few generations ago, whiteness was forced onto my family. Unlike Bow [Tracee Ellis Ross], my light skin doesn’t come from a place of love or consent, but is instead a constant reminder of the violent transgressions my ancestors faced. I never had a kind, white family member to turn to with my questions, I only had skin that allowed me some privileges over my dark-skinned family members and, unlike Bow, I hated being a living reminder of white privilege and colorism within my own community. It’s an important distinction because even though Bow and I came to our color differently, we still share the same experiences and sense of alienation.

Ashley Ray-Harris, “Colorism and interracial dating bring the “ish” in Black-ish into focus,” A.V. Club, December 1, 2016. http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/colorism-and-interracial-dating-bring-ish-black-is-246705.

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Elizabeth Warren and Tracee Ellis Ross on the Road to Activism

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Women on 2016-09-19 00:39Z by Steven

Elizabeth Warren and Tracee Ellis Ross on the Road to Activism

The New York Times

Philip Galanes

Senator Elizabeth Warren, left, and the actress Tracee Ellis Ross having dinner at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington.
Credit Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

Tracee Ellis Ross may be working 14 hours a day in Los Angeles on her hit TV show, “black-ish.” “But when Elizabeth Warren says she’ll have dinner with you,” Ms. Ross said, walking into a suite at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, “you get on a plane. I have a million questions for her.”

And from the moment Senator Warren entered the lobby, friendly to all but racewalking toward the elevator, she was happy to offer answers: breaking down complex problems into plain-spoken choices, engaging everyone in sight. When a woman on the elevator said, “You look familiar,” Ms. Warren introduced herself, shook her hand and asked how her evening was going.

Of course, Ms. Warren, 67, comes by teaching naturally. A law professor for over 30 years, most recently at Harvard, she specialized in bankruptcy and commercial law. A strong advocate of consumer protection, she conceived and fought for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.

Two years later, the political novice was elected a United States senator from Massachusetts. Ms. Warren has since emerged as a very popular figure in the Democratic Party and a fierce advocate for the middle class. In June, she endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, and has gone toe-to-toe with Donald J. Trump in a series of fiery Twitter exchanges.

Ms. Ross, 43, has also established herself as a powerful advocate, particularly for self-esteem among black girls in a series of TV specials, “Black Girls Rock,” and through social media. For eight seasons, beginning in 2000, she starred in the sitcom “Girlfriends,” for which she won two NAACP Image Awards.

But her greatest exposure and acclaim have come with her starring role on “black-ish,” about an extended African-American family, whose third season begins on Wednesday. For her performance, Ms. Ross was nominated for an Emmy for lead actress in a comedy. She is the first African-American woman to be nominated in the category in 30 years, and only the fifth in Emmy history. (The Emmys will be televised Sunday.)…

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Tracee Ellis Ross: ‘That Hurt Like the Bejesus’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-01-25 20:23Z by Steven

Tracee Ellis Ross: ‘That Hurt Like the Bejesus’

The New York Times

Tracee Ellis Ross Credit Pej Behdarvand for The New York Times

The actress talks with Jenna Wortham about defining her own sense of beauty and humor.

It’s awards-show season. Do you like going to the shows? I didn’t actually go to the Golden Globes, but I do love awards-show season. It means lots of pretty dresses — and it’s even more fun when you are nominated.

The show you’re on, “black-ish,” has gotten a fair amount of critical praise. Do you know if the show has been picked up for a second season? No. Having been in the business for a while, I never like to look forward. You kind of enjoy what’s happening while it’s happening and leave the rest up to God, the angels, the trees, the stars — whatever you want to call it.

I love how women have responded to you in particular, especially the way you wear your hair out in this gorgeous storm cloud. A storm cloud? Is that what you said?

I may have said that, yes. That’s lovely. Women are asked to put forward, to a certain extent, a mask. And for black women, that has taken on greater significance, because the standard of beauty has not necessarily had the space for different definitions of beauty. I’m trying to find my own version of what makes me feel beautiful. On “black-ish,” there’s a lot that has to be done working around my hair, in terms of scheduling…

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Women in TV 2015: Tracee Ellis Ross in ‘black-ish’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-01-10 23:41Z by Steven

Women in TV 2015: Tracee Ellis Ross in ‘black-ish’


Seth Plattner, Culture Editor

This article appears in the February 2015 issue of ELLE magazine.

Clones and copywriters. Journalists and sex scientists. Cult survivors and carnival acts. These actors fearlessly take on roles that are all over the map. So what do they have in common? A gift for delivering complex female characters who always leave us wanting just one more episode, please!

There are on-screen moms—and then there are Prime-Time Matriarchs. Thanks to Tracee Ellis Ross, Rainbow “Bow” Johnson of ABC’s Black-ish may just be the next Clair Huxtable or Marge Simpson. She first played the den-mother type in a group of four friends living in Los Angeles on UPN/The CW’s Girlfriends. On Black-ish, Ross, 42, is now lending that warmth (and many a sideways glance) to a traditional family setup and an audience of nearly 8 million viewers per week.

Bow is an anesthesiologist who, with her ad-man husband, Dre (Anthony Anderson), is raising four precocious kids in upper-class suburban L.A.—and has to constantly deal with Dre’s concern that their family isn’t adequately in touch with all that it means to be black. In exploring that issue through one family, Black-ish makes race not a thing by making it a thing. “In 1950, the black experience was specific,” says Ross, a former model who is the daughter of Diana Ross and Robert Ellis Silberstein. “But in this day and age, it isn’t. Race, culture, family, socioeconomics, tradition—we’re pulling from all those places to pull the whole conversation forward.”

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Dr. Rainbow Johnson: Tracee Ellis Ross and Mixed Race on Black-ish

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-11-18 20:13Z by Steven

Dr. Rainbow Johnson: Tracee Ellis Ross and Mixed Race on Black-ish

Kaleido[scopes]: Diaspora Re-imagined
Williams College Student Research Journal

Michelle May-Curry, Contributing Writer

Mixed race women. The tragic mulatta, the jezebel, the code-switcher, the new millennium mulatta, and the exceptional multiracial are terms and ideas that audiences subconsciously pull from to index mixed race identity. Some of these tropes are centuries old – the tragic mulatta calls to mind a woman who cannot find a home in either of her identities and as such meets her downfall through racelessness. Other terms like the “new millenium mulatta” are new, and describe a woman who constantly seeks to transcend her blackness and climb the racial hierarchy. But these terms do not quite begin to describe who Dr. Rainbow Johnson is on ABC’s new show Black-ish. What role Rainbow plays within the black experience, however, is a question that Black-ish might not know the answer to just yet.

Tracee Ellis Ross, the mixed race actress of Girlfriends fame, plays Rainbow (Bow for short), a 21st century working mother of four. As the show might imply, Ross’ character is black…ish. Bow is a self identified mixed race woman and the matriarch to an upper class black family in the suburbs. The product of hippie parents, as her rather eccentric name might suggest, Bow’s upbringing was progressive and far less “traditionally” black compared to her husband’s, who grew up in Compton. As for Ross, the actress is a self-identified black woman who simultaneously acknowledges both her black and white identities. Ross’ identity is rather abnormal for a mixed woman of her generation- most mixed race people born before the 1980′s recount stories of how black was the natural and only identity choice they had to make. The most famous example we can look to today who shares this opinion is our president, Barack Obama

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A Family Rooted in Two Realms

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-24 20:45Z by Steven

A Family Rooted in Two Realms

The New York Times

Neil Genzlinger, Television Critic

In “black-ish,” Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross lead a family wrestling with racial issues. From left, Marsai Martin, Marcus Scribner, Yara Shahidi and Miles Brown as their children.

‘black-ish,’ a New ABC Comedy, Taps Racial Issues

A lot of people in the television business are said to be curious to see how “black-ish,” ABC’s new comedy, is received when it has its premiere on Wednesday night. What they should really be curious about, though, is where the series goes after its funny but talking-point-heavy first episode.

The sitcom centers on a black family in Los Angeles, the Johnsons, struggling with prosperity. Andre (Anthony Anderson) works at an advertising agency; in the premiere, he’s on the verge of a major promotion. Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) is an anesthesiologist. Their four children are smart and adorable.

If this puts you in mind of the Huxtables of “The Cosby Show,” that’s no accident. But more than the Huxtables ever were, the Johnsons are wrestling with whether their comfortable lives are causing them to forget that they’re black…

…At home, he tells his lighter-skinned wife — a “pigment-challenged mixed-race woman,” he calls her — that she’s not black enough. He is dismayed that his older son is trying out for field hockey instead of basketball. The dinner table discussion (yes, we’ve found the last family in America that still eats together around a dinner table) focuses on whether the children know that Barack Obama is the first black president. Even fried chicken comes in for scrutiny, although not from Andre, but from his father, winningly played by Laurence Fishburne.

It’s all gentle as can be. “Black-ish” may be full of racial themes, but it’s working a gimmick that transcends race: Dad as buffoon…

Read the entire review here.

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Color Lines Are Blurred in ABC Comedy ‘Black-Ish’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-19 18:29Z by Steven

Color Lines Are Blurred in ABC Comedy ‘Black-Ish’

The Associated Press

Frazier Moore, Television Writer

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Tracee Ellis Ross delivers perhaps the funniest line you’ll hear on a sitcom this fall.

The character she plays on ABC’s comedy “black-ish” is, like Ross, an appealing mix of beauty, smarts and zaniness. She is totally plausible as a savvy mother of four and the loving wife of an up-and-coming ad exec (co-star Anthony Anderson), not to mention a busy anesthesiologist.

In this upscale African-American family, Dr. Rainbow Johnson also happens to be biracial. This occasionally spurs Andre, her hubby, who’s forever fretting about the family’s black cred, to question whether she is certifiably “black.”

He does this in the series’ premiere, to which, unfazed, Rainbow fires back, “If I’m not really black, then could someone please tell my hair and my ass!”

Reminded of that line during a recent interview, Ross cracks up.

“That’s what I love about our show,” she says. “With that line, my character sums it all up: ‘Are you STILL coming from the world that believes all black people are the same and all black people should think the same? C’mon, Dre!'”

With remarkable humor and finesse, “black-ish” (which debuts Sept. 24 at 9:30 p.m. EDT) addresses race, culture, socio-economics and other weighty matters…

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