Netflix series #BlackAF has struck a chord in the Black community to become one of the most polarizing new titles on the streaming platform.
The underlying topics of colorism and Black representation in media triggered much of the backlash and Kenya Barris, the show’s star and creator, recently broke his silence to respond to the reception of his latest work in an appearance on T.I.’s expediTIously podcast.
“The one thing that I’ll say in terms of the colorism [is] this (the show) is based on my family” and actress Rashida Jones is “playing a version of my wife, who’s biracial,” said Barris, who said she did a “pitch-perfect job.”
#BlackAF is a fictionalized satire of Barris, who plays himself, opposite Jones, navigating through Hollywood as a Black creative with a biracial wife and family. Barris is the creator of the Award-winning ABC series Black-ish and its subsequent spinoffs Grown-ish and Mixed-ish, which are also loosely based on his life. He is also a co-writer of comedy film Girls Trip.
Barris has six children with his wife Rania “Rainbow” Barris, who is the inspiration for anesthesiologist Rainbow Johnson, played by Tracee Ellis Ross, in Black-ish.
“I think everyone’s experience and everyone’s opinion in terms of, you know, colorism are real, and I understand that,” Barris continued, “but if you just dug a little bit under the surface, you’d understand that” #BlackAF is “biographical … and I was trying to duplicate a version of what my family was.”
The show “speaks to the idea that there is so much colorism in the world,” he added, “The ignorance I have a little bit of a problem with … but I take opinions good with the bad because if you’re going to listen to any of them, you’ve got to listen to all of them.”
Many have taken to social media to speak on their disdain for the series’ look at colorism:
One Twitter user questioned if Jones is Black, saying “it makes no sense” how America is “committed to their one drop rule.”
— the reverend (@realestfemcel) April 27, 2020
Another suggested the show lost her support on the first episode.
— Tellie (@Chaantellie) April 26, 2020
While Barris is credited for creating #BlackAF and writing multiple episodes of the eight-part series, others questioned the show’s penmanship.
— one of my dads is black. (@afromisandry) April 25, 2020
Some, however, have supported the show and showed appreciation for both the satirical commentary and representation.
One Twitter user called out critics that derided Barris for “choosing actors that (sic) portrayed his ACTUAL family” and said #BlackAF is “education on black history, yet ur (sic) concerned about colorism.”
why are ppl mad at Kenya Barris for choosing actors tht portrayed his ACTUAL family! The show is educational on black history yet ur concerned about colorism. 🤦🏽♀️ #blackAF pic.twitter.com/83MkPzMoHo
— Jojo 💋 (@jxanii_) April 27, 2020
“[B]lack people come in all shades, shapes, and sizes. Rashida Jones is a BLACK. WOMAN” and “her having lighter pigmented skin & being mixed doesn’t (sic) make her less of a black woman than any other black woman,” another user wrote.
why are people downplaying #blackAF 😭… black people come in all shades, shapes, and sizes. Rashida Jones is a BLACK. WOMAN. her having lighter pigmented skin & being mixed doesnt make her less of a black woman than any other black woman… chile whats not clicking pic.twitter.com/0HXMYSv65L
— ᴊ (@blorkshit) April 24, 2020
“I truly don’t understand all the hate this guy is getting. It’s his life, and his experiences. He should be allowed to tell his story in his own way,” another #BlackAF fan said.
Great show. I truly don’t understand all the hate this guy is getting. It’s his life, and his experiences. He should be allowed to tell his story in his own way. #blackafnetflix #BlackAF pic.twitter.com/Tj3HQMSiJG
— Herbert Sanders (@SandersLawPC) May 1, 2020
Barris as a Hollywood writer continues to make moves in real life as executive producer of the Netflix sketch comedy show Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show and wrote the forthcoming Coming 2 America sequel.