TV Show Reviews: A Mixed-race POV on Mixed-ish

I am a regular viewer of the show Black-ish and a fan of Tracee Ellis Ross. I wanted to disclose that before I continued writing the review on Tracee’s show Mixed-ish. I am also a mixed-race black woman, which is why I wanted to write this review.

When I first saw the trailer for Mixed-ish, I was very skeptical. Another Black-ish spinoff? Remember the other show, Grownish? Is this going to be a trend?

Mixed-ish builds on the already established, but vague background of Rainbow Johnson, Tracee’s character on Black-ish. At this point, if you’ve been watching the show, you’ll know we’ve already gotten to know Rainbow’s mother and younger brother (played by Anna Deavere Smith and Daveed Diggs, whom I freakin’ love).

The Mixed-ish pilot starts off with the characters from Black-ish commenting on how vague Rainbow, or Bow, is about her childhood. So, grown-up Rainbow starts to tell us her story.

In 1985, Bow was 12 and lived with her family at a commune that apparently has been doing some shady (possibly illegal???) activities. Bow and her family (mom, who is black; dad, who is white, and her younger brother and sister) are forced to flee the commune and live in one of her white grandfather’s homes.

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Bow and her brother and sister have apparently never used things like indoor plumbing, watched TV,  and have no idea that having a white father and a Black mother wasn’t really, fully accepted by society.

The pilot essentially examines what a mid-’80s view of biracial identity would be, as far as representation and acceptance. Bow’s parents never really had “the talk” to their kids. You know, the talk about race that most black kids get as kids.

Bow and her siblings feel out of place and when they go into the cafeteria, they are stuck in the middle of their segregated peers. (and when I say segregated, I don’t mean forced segregation)

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So, is it a bad thing for these characters to feel out of place? No. Is it relatable to me as a mixed-race black person? Hell no. I didn’t really have a “mixed-race experience.”

OK, OK, hear me out.

My experience growing up was an obvious anomaly as far as experiences go, but I grew up Black. I was the only Black person in my family and the idea of being mixed wasn’t really that important to me.

Sure, I knew I look different from most black kids, but I grew up in an area where mixed-race kids weren’t that uncommon. I also didn’t really struggle to try to figure out if I fit in with the black kids or if I would be accepted by white people.

I honestly didn’t care if people accepted me for me either way as a kid but I knew damn well that white kids weren’t going to accept me as one of their own.

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What I’m trying to say is that Black people experience life in a unique way, especially in America. And while this is true, black people are just like everyone else. Being mixed race is really not that big of a deal. Sure, you might stick out from other black kids, but not really. And to make matters worse, when you’re light skin, you’re treated better by society.

I don’t want this show to be what people think someone who is half black and half white is like. My mother was white and my father was black. I am racially half white, but I have never and will never be treated like a white person. Does this mean I’m rejecting my white side? Hell yeah!

Ok, no I’m not, but this is my reality and the reality for a lot of mixed-race black people. The black community has always been accepting of mixed-race people, oftentimes to a fault.

When I was growing up, I looked up to my black idols and it didn’t matter to me that they were darker than me. When I watched TV shows, movies, read books with black characters – I felt represented. Sure, when I saw mixed-race people (shot out to Halle Berry and Melanie Brown), I thought it was cool, but it was never something that was revolutionary to me.

I can truly say that I am a better person because of my blackness. The culture, the people, the food, the music; everything about Black culture is beautiful.

It makes me sad to think that Rainbow’s mother didn’t share it with her children. This seems unrealistic and the YouTuber ForHarriet actually brought up the fact that Rainbow’s mother would have grown up through the 50s and 60s. She would have experienced the deep years of the Civil Rights Movement. She would have grown up during a time when race relations in America were horrible (they’ve never not been horrible, let’s be honest).

For me, it’s hard to believe that an educated (she graduated from law school) dark skin black woman would have completely turned her back on the world she had grown up in to run away to a commune with a hippy ass white dude.

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I think I’ll continue to watch and review this show. I like that this show is about finding your racial identity in a world that somehow wants to assign racial identity to everyone, even those not everyone understands. I expect Bow and her siblings struggle as they navigate the streets and will get smacked in the face with reality numerous times.

And those who have been watching Black-ish already know how Bow turned out. She is educated, funny, patient with her children, and just an overall kind and beautiful human being. So, something good must have come out of her childhood if she ended up as successful as she is. Mixed-ish is Rainbow Johnson’s story and we’ll just have to continue to watch it unfold to figure out if it’s one with telling.

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Arica Himmel is literally baby Tracee
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