Tag: Tika Sumpter

We Need to Talk About Colorism on ‘Mixed-ish’

Mixed-ish is a new show to premiere this fall on ABC. If it sounds familiar its because it is the newest addition to the Kenya Barris empire on the network. His first big show was Black-ish then it’s spin off Grown-ish. Now, Mixed-ish will be a prequel series about Rainbow Johnson played by Tracee Ellis Ross.


Image via Rogers Media


When I first heard about the spin off, I was like…um okay? I’ve always liked Black-ish even when some of the episodes were questionable and the same goes for Grown-ish but sadly in a larger way.  


Image via HipHopDx


Rainbow is the mother and wife on Black-ish and her character is mixed, half white and half black. On the show, we meet Bow’s mother several times and she always was a light skinned black woman. But when the trailer for Mixed-ish came out and we see that Tika Sumpter, a dark skinned actress was playing the role of her mother, it was confusing. We all had questions. 


Image via MadameNoire


Tika Sumpter is seen on the left and the original actress is on the right.

This fact alone leads me to a couple of conclusions. 

The first being, ‘Oh, this is why the colorism episodes, raised more questions than discussion.’ On both Black-ish and Grown-ish he and his team of writers bring up colorism. The first instance was when one of the twins on the show, Diane, gets her school pictures back and they didn’t light her properly so in the corner of the class photo she was almost completely dark.

For Grown-ish, the conversation was started by Zoey, the main character and eldest Johnson child about how colorism affects dating. It introduces how some black men would rather date white women, women who looked ‘exotic’ or unidentifiable than black women, specifically dark skinned black women. 



Both had good intentions, I will say that. And the Black-ish episode did a bit of a better job. It showed how colorism is multi-faceted and how there is not an easy solution. The point that they drove home was how all black skin is beautiful which is a sentiment that I could get behind. But the discussion was undercut by the B plot in which Jack, her twin wants to get to school earlier for the first time. For me it framed the episode in a strange way and made it seem like there was a ticking clock on this important conversation by counting down to the time where Jack was supposed to be at his assembly. 


Image via Yahoo


Grown-ish’s episode completely missed the mark for me. There were so many opportunities in the episode to have a real discussion about colorism and college life but for seem reason they didn’t go all the way. A character in the show is made aware that he has a preference for lighter skinned women. To prove a point, he finds a darker skinned woman and brings her over to the table, parading her around, basically saying ‘see, I like dark women too.’  No, discussion was had, the dark skinned student didn’t even say anything to put him in his place. It gets brushed off until later in the episode where he actually admits that he might have a preference for lighter women but it’s under cut with an attempt at a joke. They wrote themselves two opportunities for any kind of discussion on this particular topic but they wasted twenty minutes of my time.

My second conclusion is that Kenya Barris and the writers are pandering to their audience. On Black-ish there weren’t too many dark skinned black women besides, Diane and her grandmother Ruby, her father’s mother. Now, both seemed to act like some of the stereotypes given to black women. In the earlier seasons, Diane was mean and kind of evil while her grandmother was oversexualized. Not that there’s anything wrong with women acting in that manner on their own accord, it just always felt stereotypical to me.

In the colorism episode on Black-ish, Rainbow brings up the arguments about how it wasn’t her fault that she was born light skin and how light skin jokes hurt and these are very valid points. But if her mother was supposed to be as dark as Tika Sumpter, why couldn’t Bow try to help with the conversation with her own daughter? At the end, Ruby talks with Diane because she is the only one who knows what she was going through and it was fine but knowing what we know now, it doesn’t sit right with me that Bow was left out of that conversation.

She could’ve maybe talked about the experiences she had seen her mother go through or wait, no, she couldn’t because Bow’s mother was NEVER supposed to be dark skin. I’m not putting Tika Sumpter’s acting skills to the test here, she could’ve been the best person for the job but seriously? There wasn’t a single actress who could help continue and expand your already established universe, Mr. Barris? Where is the continuity?

So, are we saying that Bow deliberately held back information that could’ve helped soothe her daughter? That she just so happened to forget that her mama was dark skinned and knows absolutely nothing about her mother’s experiences as a black woman? Especially a black woman in an interracial relationship? I find that very hard to believe.


Image via Amazon


And it’s ironic how last year a book titled, Keeping Up With the Johnsons: Bow’s Guide to Black-ish Parenting had no effect at all. It’s a parenting guide, “written” by Rainbow but it was really written by Mrs. Barris and supposedly based on the couple’s life. It’s frustrating because Bow is a great mom. If it was supposed to be framed this way from the beginning, this could have been a great character moment and a mother/daughter moment.

On another note, what does that say about the actress change? Are we supposed to believe that as Bow’s mom got older that she lost color? And that what? Getting gray hair equates to losing melanin?



The last and final conclusion, is that I’m tired. Black-ish, Grown-ish and Mixed-ish can be absolutely incredible shows and the latter have had some good episodes. But if you can go all the way and have the opportunity to do so, why pull back? A lot of their subject heavy episodes make great points which then leads to great discussion. But at the moment I’m disappointed.

Mixed-ish premieres on September 24, so we’ll see. 


Feature Image Via TV Insider