ABC’s reboot of "The Wonder Years" has returned for a second season and just four episodes in, it’s already becoming highly racial as well as being derogatory toward white people...Again. Granted, the show is set in Montgomery, Alabama in the late ‘60s when racial tensions were high and racism was rampant. However, as the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
When you consider the racial tension that permeates our culture today, do we really need any more shows that create more of a racial divide? Obviously we don’t, but that didn’t stop "The Wonder Years" from doing just that.
The show centers around the life of young Dean Williams (Elisha Williams) and his family, and as an adult Dean (Don Cheadle) narrates in a voiceover about his memories.
On Wednesday’s episode, “Blockbusting,” the Williams family meets real estate agent Terrence (Donald Faison) who's looking for a reputable black family to move into a vacant home in a white neighborhood to help with racial integration.
However, Dean’s father Bill (Dule Hill) has no interest in living next to “white folks”:
Terrence: Because I’m just thinking about it as I'm sitting here with y'all. Bill is a professor. His wife runs a department for the state. Their oldest son is a decorated war veteran, and their youngest son plays Little League baseball. I mean, that's more American than most white people! I think you guys would be the perfect family to integrate a neighborhood. I mean, it would be best for all of us, obviously.
Bill: If we were interested in moving next to white folks. But we're not.
Later, Dean’s sister Kim (Laura Kariuki) is extremely left-leaning and a member of the Black Panthers, and she lets it be known that she is “fundamentally against assimilation” and is going to do everything in her power to fight it:
Lillian: I don’t see anything wrong with us finding out the particulars. We could move to a bigger house that would allow Dean to go to a really good high school.
Kim: MM, I guess I missed out on the "really good high school," huh?
Lillian: You want to finish up at St. Anne's with those ugly uniforms and no boys?
Kim: Never mind.
Dean: Well, Dad, you always tell us to support black businesses, and Terrence is a black real-estate agent.
Dean (Voiceover): I'm not sure I'd even heard of real-estate agents before, but I had a bigger point.
Dean: Oh, and our new house would be walking distance from my junior high, and right around the corner from Brad's. It would be so cool.
Bill: What's wrong with your friends on this street? Suddenly, your white friends are cooler?
Kim: You know I am fundamentally against assimilation. But if our new house had a rec room big enough for me to hold meetings to fight it, then let's move.
Lillian: You're not fooling anybody, Kim. You just want a bigger closet.
Kim: Both things can be true.
One of Dean’s best friends in school, Brad (Julian Lerner), happens to live near the house that’s for sale, which leads to a discussion about the benefits of them living closer to each other should the Williams family move there. An interesting crack at the Democrat party is made when things become awkward and uncomfortable between their moms, and Kim’s racism towards white people is on full display as she throws out various white stereotypes with disdain:
Keisa: I can't believe you might be moving soon.
Dean: Well, I mean, someone's gotta lead racial progress in Montgomery. And why not me?
Brad: You know, if you move closer to my house, we could walk home from school together, watch our favorite shows together, even the ones that come on at 10:00, like Mission: Impossible, because, well, you could walk home afterward.
Keisa: Why walk home at all? If you guys are gonna be neighbors, why don't you just sleep over?
Dean (Voiceover): Now, Keisa knew damn well why we didn't have sleepovers. Black and white folks had only been eating in the same restaurants for a couple of years. We weren't ready to stay in each other's houses. But I could always count on my friend Brad to be clueless.
Brad: You know what? We don't have to wait until you move. We could have a sleepover at my house this weekend. Our moms are right there. Let's go ask.
Dean (Voiceover): Yeah, this was uncomfortable. But if that's what being on the cutting edge of racial progress felt like, I guess I'd have to get used to it.
Brad: Mom! Hey. Can Dean come over for a sleepover this weekend?
Sarah: Well, uh, Brad... Of course, it's okay with me, but, um, it's really up to Mrs. Williams.
Lillian: Well, I think a sleepover is a fine idea. But, uh, we would have to ask your dad about it first, and then if he agrees, we'll call up Mrs. Hitman and make arrangements.
Dean (voiceover): And this discomfort is how the current racial makeup of the Democratic Party began.
Kim: I've heard things are...different at white people's houses. You know they don't use washcloths in the shower?
Dean: Oh, it's okay. I don't plan on taking any showers this weekend.
Kim: They also don't season their food. Everything is bland. Ugh! Bet they'll make you watch corny TV shows like "Hee Haw" and "The Beverly Hillbillies."
Dean: I hope so. That Jethro character is hilarious.
Kim: You might as well be white.
Dean (Voiceover): Unfortunately, it was neither the first nor last time I would hear that.
Can you imagine if the races were reversed, and black stereotypes were used for laughs?
When the Williams family views the property, a white, racist, old couple are very obviously peering through the bushes with a look of contempt on their face, causing Kim to taunt them with her connection to the Black Panthers:
Terrence: Tremendous curb appeal, wouldn't you say, Professor?
Dean (Voiceover): Uh-oh. Seeing those tight, hateful faces was like waving a red cape in front of Kim.
Kim: Let's buy it! This is the perfect spot for me to start a new chapter of the Black Panthers! Oh, we can have target practice with our machine guns right here in the front yard!
Kim: They deserved it.
Terrace: Yeah, young Angela Davis here is right. If we're lucky, they won't be here for very long. Folks that don't get along with us are a dying breed.
Dean: What if they don't die?
Bill: Dean has a point. We all know everyone's not gonna welcome us.
Terrence: And that's why it's important to find families like yourself who are brave enough to do this work. See, integration is a battle that must be fought with blood, sweat, and low interest rates. Come on, soldiers.
Do they not see the irony that not wanting to integrate with white people and stereotyping them is just as hateful and racist as this awful, racist, white couple?
In the end, the Williams family decides not to move, as adult Dean announces in a voiceover, “My dad…never sold the house I grew up in. But by the time I was grown, most of the neighbors were white. He avoided integration, but gentrification got him anyway.”
Got him? So, they would have preferred segregation? Again, it was very wrong of white people to ever treat black people that way, but the solution isn’t more hate. They did end up having dinner with Brad’s white family in the end, so I guess there’s that.
But, as our country deals with very high racial tensions, it’s shows like these that are adding to the divide rather than creating harmony and peace between all races. Do better, Hollywood.
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