READ: ‘Black-ish’ Writer Discusses That Epic Colorism Episode

By Sameer Rao Jan 16, 2019

Previous episodes of “Black-ish" have candidly explored police violence, enslavement and other aspects of the Black experience in America. But executive producer and writer Peter Saji says that colorism—the focus of last night’s (January 15) episode—was the most difficult topic of them all.

"In our 100-plus episodes, we’ve done stories about touchy subjects like police brutality, Trump, guns, sexuality, the n-word, religion, spanking and interracial dating," Saji wrote for The Hollywood Reporter before the episode aired. "However, this one terrifies me the most."

Saji writes that the episode, called "Black Like Us," follows the Johnsons after Diane’s (Marsai Martin) incorrectly lit school photo prompts each family member to relate how their skin tones shape their lives. He notes that the silence around colorism had previously stalled the show’s creative team, and that tension ultimately pushed them to explore the topic:


Colorism has been around for generations, but we’re only finally addressing it in season five. This is not a coincidence. Where there is shame, there is also heightened sensitivity. We procrastinated in telling this story because we knew we had to get it right or, quite frankly, we would get dragged on Twitter.


"Black-ish" stories benefit from having a big room in which we debate different topics. "Lemons," for example, was begat from weeks of heated arguments. However, due to the complexity of colorism, our room was allowed to expand even larger. A network executive shared an experience in the Latin community. A member of the camera department admitted to feeling "less than." My half-sister reminded me how colorstruck our father was.

Read the full essay here.