ABC’s ‘Blackish’ Claims African-Americans Can’t Swim Because White People Took Pools Away

So, Blackish was in rare form on Wednesday night, in an episode titled ‘Sink or Swim,’ wasting no time at all before diving into a historical recap of the stereotypical notion that African-Americans are no fans of swimming.

You see, Dre (Anthony Anderson) can’t help but notice that his white neighbors have pool parties without inviting his family. A factor he chalks up to the assumption that they’re racists:

Bow: Normally, I would ask, "What are you doing, Dre?" But 16 years in, I think I'd rather not know.

Dre: Baby, come here. Oh, my God.

Bow: What?

Dre: Look here. Look at this. Look at this.

Bow: What?

Dre: Every Saturday for the past five months, Janine has been throwing a pool party, and don't you think it's weird that she hasn't invited us?

Bow: Okay, can I get up now? Yeah, it is weird. I mean, who wouldn't want an angry, creepy, spying-like-a-hunchback neighbor at their party?

Dre: Open your eyes, Bow. We're the only black family on the block. It's obvious they don't want us in their pool. She's on her way over here. She's coming over here! Stop acting weird.

Bow: Dre, that's jack's highlights.

Dre: She doesn't know my interests.

Janine: Look, I know it's rude to be stopping by so last minute, but I just realized the most embarrassing thing. Bruce and I have been having these pool parties all season long, and somehow we just never thought to ask you guys.

Bow: Oh, Janine, that is so sweet.

Janine: Is it okay if people park in front of your house?

Dre: That's exactly what I'm talking about right there!

Junior: What's going on? And why are you screaming? And who did my picture puzzler? Oh, so, nobody knows nothing? It just got done on its own?

Dre: Janine doesn't want us in her pool because she probably thinks that we can't swim. The reason my beautiful wife is giving me the stink eye, is because I just brought up an ugly stereotype that black people can't swim. And the truth is, there is a legacy of black folks not swimming in America. During our 300-year-long unpaid internship, we weren't exactly encouraged to take time out for refreshing dips. Of course, desegregation was a step in the right direction, until white people left the cities for the suburbs, and urban pools where black kids could learn to swim were "Coincidentally" -- do you feel my air quotes? -- defunded, drained, and closed. Of course, white folks were excited to let us swim in their private pools and country clubs. I'm kidding. Didn't happen. In fact, when Dorothy Dandridge, the Beyoncé of her day, dared to dip her fine foot into a hotel pool, they drained the whole thing.

Bow: So, you're mad at Janine because you think she thinks you can't swim, which you can't.

The only problem with this is that Dre hasn’t considered an alternative theory for why he’s shunned from the white pool party: that his white neighbors just don’t like him. A notion advanced by his co-workers who have no problem listing reasons why someone may not like Dre, and pointing out the fact that Dre seems overly prone to thinking everyone hates him because he’s black:

Boss: Why would you want to be invited to this woman’s party, Dre? It's not like you can swim.

Dre: I don't know why I'm surprised that you would assume that, but why would you assume that?

Boss: It's science, Dre. Your bones are denser. You would sink like a stone.

Dre: Offensive and completely untrue.

Daphne: So, you can swim.

Dre: No.

Boss: Zingo! 20 bucks. Pay up.

Josh: Come on, Dre.

Boss: That's 20 bucks I didn't have yesterday. Daphne, what about you? Can you swim?

Daphne: "Can't swim" is harsh. I prefer, "None of your damn business."

Boss: Josh, look up your black contacts. Tell me how many of them can swim.

Josh: Okay, well, Dre is no, and that's it. Daphne won't give me her number.

Dre: Very conclusive.

Co-worker: It's science, Dre.

Dre: Whatever.

Daphne: Dre, let's not assume this is racial. There are a lot of reasons why they might not invite you. Maybe they just don't like you. I haven't known you that long, and I'm struggling.

Boss: You are a strong cup of tea.

Dre: In what way?

Daphne: You're loud and self-centered.

Josh: You wear too much cologne.

Daphne: You take up two parking spaces.

Josh: You throw out your fish lunch in the conference-room trash.

Boss: And you bleed easily.

Josh: You touch every donut before you pick one.

Boss: If by "One," you mean "Three."

Josh: Oh, I mean six.

Daphne: Guys, guys, guys, stop.

Dre: Thank you.

Daphne: Let's get this on the whiteboard so we won't forget our favorites.

Boss: Oh, good call.

Josh: On it.

Dre: You know what? A lot of hilarious things were said in jest, but this is a race thing.

Boss: There's another one -- uh, "Won't back down."

Josh: Number two -- "Won't back down." Got it.

Daphne: Thinks everything's always racial.

Boss: There you go.

Josh: Lots of race.

Boss: That should be one, actually, I think, don't you? Yeah, put that to one.

Josh: So, that one goes to one. That goes to three. I like that. What's two?

Daphne: Parking spaces. Two parking spaces.

Josh: Parking spaces.

Boss: Likes pudding too much.

As it turns out, both Dre and his co-workers are wrong. The family hasn’t invited him because the family has long suspected that Dre’s family doesn’t like them. Which, turns out to be true.

Blackish also took a playful, yet obvious shot at gender roles in the episode, when Dre’s mom Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) warned her grandchildren of the pitfalls that may come from little boys acting like little girls and vice versa:

Girl: We don't get to do any of the cool stuff the boys do. Boy Rovers have sailing, astronomy, and wood carving! But girl rovers have babysitting, manners, and -- eating for beauty? What the -- it's not fair.

Boy: Yeah. What boy wouldn't want to learn how to eat for beauty?

Ruby: Now, now, enough of this foolishness. The Rovers have been exemplary organizations since their very beginning. Well, aside from a few teeny, tiny bumps in the boys' division along the way.

Girl: Do we have to go?

Ruby: Yes. Boys need to be boys, and girls need to be girls. Otherwise, it all goes higgledy-piggledy. Danica Patrick, Ronda Rousey, Wheaties boxes. Oy!

That’s got to be a Bruce Jenner joke, right? Do we know of any other gender confused athletes who have been notorious for gracing the cover of Wheaties boxes?

I don’t know about the Ronda Rousey and Danica Patrick examples. Both of them are straight and aggressively marketed as female sex symbols. But the Jenner “Wheaties box” reference (and I’m just going to believe that’s what was intended) was hilarious. Though, it was also telling that even though the Blackish writers felt perfectly comfortable calling out Rousey and Patrick by name, they dared not use Jenner’s name.

So, if you were ever wondering how powerful the LGBT community is among the Hollywood left…there’s your answer.

Dylan Gwinn
Dylan Gwinn
Dylan Gwinn is an author and sports talk radio host.