'The Carmichael Show' Takes on Black Lives Matter in a Surprising Way

The Carmichael Show continues to pleasantly surprise (read about the pilot here) with its second episode, "Protest." It opens with the news that there is a protest going on because an unarmed teenager was shot by police in the city. This excites Maxine (Amber Stevens West) who bemoans the fact that she "tried to go to Occupy Wall Street but my flight landed when the protest ended, so I just saw 'Book of Mormon' twice and went home.”

She dons a "Black Lives Matter" t-shirt and starts talking about how exciting it is, prompting Joe (David Alan Grier) to ask, "Do you always get this giddy when somebody gets shot?" He has reason to be skeptical:

-Cynthia: You know, Maxine is right-- these young people need to get out there and stand up for what they believe in.
-Joe: I don't think anybody needs to be out there.
-Jerrod: Thank you.
-Joe: No, I watched the news this morning. We don't have all the facts. Now, I've seen plenty of these protests, and I'm just gonna say this: Sometimes black people have a tendency to jump to conclusions.
-(Scoffs) Jump to conclusions?!
-Well, look at you. You read a damn T-shirt, now you're encouraging Maxine to go out there and protest.
-Yeah, yeah, yeah, and she's, like, ready to ignore her son's birthday.
-You haven't even seen the news story yet.
-The sad part is I don't have to see it. Well, okay, you know, I will say that sometimes there's a legitimate reason to protest. But sometimes I say to myself, "Why are they running from the cops in the first place?"
-What? I mean, you think just because he's black, he's innocent? What, I'm just being honest about how I feel. I thought I was in a safe place.
-Maxine: Okay. No matter what he did, he was unarmed. So we need to make sure that people are held accountable for their actions. And that's why we should be down there, Jerrod.
-So you really think protesting makes people accountable for their actions?
-Okay, then why did I see George Zimmerman at a Dave and Busters, Maxine?
-At a Dave and Busters! You did not see George Zimmerman at Dave and Busters.
-Well, I could have. He's free enough to do it. I mean... All I'm saying is this: Like, people got all up in arms after Trayvon died, and George Zimmerman's now running around the country and is probably gonna be Donald Trump's running mate for president.
-Well, that is why I'm going down there. I can hear the bells of justice ringing and I'm answering the call.

When Joe was talking about not jumping to conclusions and asking why he was running from the cops in the first place, I kept waiting for a punchline. Something that would show him to be the fool for not jumping on board with the protest. I'm happy to report that it never came. That moment of honesty was allowed to stand on its own.

Another scene that shocked me came later when Jerrod tells Joe about a time the police profiled him and tackled him to the ground. Joe's response was to ask what he was wearing and how he was walking, a major faux pas in the #BlackLivesMatter movement who would call this kind of common sense victim blaming:

-Jerrod: So I was out getting iced coffee, and then, out of nowhere, these four cops came, and they pulled guns on me, and they forced me down to the ground, uffed me, and I, like, had a mark on my face from it hitting the sidewalk. You know, and, uh, you know, it was all because I fit a description.
-Joe: Look, son... I'm sorry you had to go through that. But let me ask you something. Do you recall what you were wearing when you got stopped by the cops?
-Why does it matter what I was wearing?
-Just answer the question.
-A hoody, if you must know.
-What do you mean, "Bingo"?
-Now, one more question: How were you walking?
-What do you mean, how was I walking?
-Get up right now and show me your walk.
-Are you kidding me?
-No, I'm not kidding you. Go on.
-Are we really gonna do this?
-We are really gonna do this.
-Fine, I'll show you my walk.
-Whoa, whoa, whoa! What?! That is one suspicious walk you got there, son. You always walk like that?
-It's my walk. It's how I walk.
-Well, I'm your father and I'd never shoot you, but that is one aggressive stroll you got. I blame it on the hip-hop.
-You know what I'm starting to realize? I'm starting to realize it's just that type of prejudiced thinking that got me stopped by the cops in the first place.
-No, this is the kind of thinking that's kept me safe all these years. I prejudge, Jerrod. I'm not prejudiced, but I will prejudge your behind like hell.
-That's how you get through life, huh?
-It's the only way to get through life. I'm only telling you this, son, to keep you safe.

I think a key to this comedy is that it doesn't moralize or tell us what to think with the kind of stale liberal plot lines that we've come to expect from television. The show's creator and namesake Jerrod Carmichael explained how he approaches the major issues facing our country through his comedy:

I know in life I was having these conversations, in elevators or with my friends. We’d discuss what’s going on. It really was just—I hate to use the word ‘honest,’ but it was really honest. These are conversations that we’re having. So why not have those on television? ...

We don’t just talk about black issues because black people don’t just talk about black issues. And black issues are, a lot of the time, American issues. So we are an American family that talks about things that American families talk about. I think the whitest family in Utah will understand and relate to everything we talk about. It’s all about human beings, and I really believe that.

A television show that has real, honest conversations about American issues on a human level. Imagine that.