Prison. A system that’s as American as apple pie and casual racism. An institution that has falsely imprisoned countless innocent people and failed to rehabilitate countless more. It’s the countries answer to sweeping its problems under the rug and trying not to deal with them until it’s parole. On this week’s episode of BLACK-ISH, Dre and Bow can’t see eye to eye on how to support his cousin while he’s in prison. Afterall, America’s dehumanization of inmates is summed up perfectly in the episode’s title, ” Please Don’t Feed The Animals”.
At the Johnson house, Dre is a little jealous of Bow’s relationship with his godbrother, Omar. Not because he visits the house too often, but because Bow spends a lot of time on the phone with him. While he’s in prison. Bow knows that life on the inside can be rough and her conversations with Omar allow him to stay connected with the real world and hopefully with his humanity. Nevermind that he’s missing out on years of job experience, Omar can’t hope to reassimilate without being well versed in Beyonce’s Lemonade.
At school, our favorite non-identical duo Jack and Diane’s popularity takes a hit when two new twins show up at school. Not only do they dress the same, but they’re actually identical. A key aspect of twin novelty. Feeling the heat J & D decide to choreograph the high five of the century. Even if it involves Jack patting an imaginary weave on his head. But once their high-five is upstaged by the new twin’s hats, it looks like Jack and Diane are old news for good. Maybe they should have tried Jack’s suggested chest bump after all.
In his office, Dre voices his concerns to his coworkers. As usual, they aren’t the best resource. His boss insists that because Omar is a blue collared criminal that Dre should keep his distance from him. Afterall, America rewards its CEO crooks with lavish jails and open arms when they return. Regular folk just leave to find themselves jobless, penniless and shunned by society. This lack of resources often pushes them back down the path of criminal behavior so the vicious cycle can continue.
Back at home, Dre gets a phone call with good news. Bow managed to connect Omar with the Innocence Project, a nonprofit that works to exonerate innocent people through DNA testing. As it turns out, Omar is innocent and will be promptly released from prison. Dre is genuinely excited and announces to Bow that he wants Omar to stay with them. However, despite Rainbow’s close relationship with Omar over the phone, she prefers to keep him away from her house, and her kids.
Now usually it’s hard for shows to really grapple with hard issues in a half hour runtime, but tackling these hard topics is what Black-ish does best. Bow and Dre represent two sides of the coin. Dre is eager to help out Omar, who is essentially going to be left out on the streets to fend for himself while Bow was comfortable only helping out from a distance. It’s easier to deal with issues like Omars possible PTSD from a distance rather than when you invite it to live under your roof. But it’s this kind of attitude that allows problems to fester.
By the time Dre and Bow decide to meet Omar at a dinner for breakfast, they’ve reached the resolve of booking him a hotel room and assisting him from a distance. Some space might actually be a good thing for Omar since prisons are usually overcrowded. However, we don’t get to see Omar’s reaction because the show ends without allowing the audience to meet him. It’s unclear whether that means he will actually ever be a reoccurring character or was just used as a plot tool for this discussion about America’s prison system. It’s hard to say, because like most recently released inmates Omar’s future is a toss-up.
Season 4, Episode 7 (S04E07)
Black-ish airs Wednesdays at 930PM on ABC
Armani Barron | Contributor