‘Black-ish’ recap: ‘The name game’

Black-ish continues to roll out socially conscience episodes that reflect issues affecting the black community. In their most recent episode, “The Name Game,” they take on the dilemma facing Black parents on whether or not to of give their children “black” names.

The episode starts with the news that Dre and Rainbow are expecting a new child. Due to an agreement between the two, Dre is fervently wishing for a boy so he can name the baby, while Rainbow wants a girl so she will have that privilege. Despite his wishes to name their baby, Dre is convinced by his coworkers that a girl would be preferable, so he switches to “team girl.”

Meanwhile, Junior’s ostensible ineptitude in the ladies department forces him to rely on Jack’s advice to woo Shelley, Zooey’s friend who is obviously crushing on him. However, after a pep talk from Jack he makes the mistake of trying too hard to act cool. Hitting on Shelley, counting birthday money and wearing a shark tank top constitutes as cool to Junior, but it turns Shelley away. Eventually he makes it up to her, but makes the inexplicable mistake of ruining things by inviting his kind of sort of but not officially girlfriend to the same Valentine’s dinner. Rookie mistake. He loses them both. Moving on …

Dre and Rainbow host a gender reveal party where it is revealed that their baby will be a boy. Upon realizing this, Dre emphatically announces the name of their unborn son … Devonte. And the controversy begins. Immediately upon hearing this, Rainbow is upset and urges Dre to rethink that. During an argument, Dre accuses Rainbow of not liking the name because it is too “black.” That’s when his mother butts in and surprisingly, giving her disdain for Rainbow, agrees with her.

In the next scene Dre goes to work and announces his babies’ name to his fellow employees. Unsurprisingly, they all proceed to deride him for his decision to name his son with a such a “black” name.

“So you’re not going for Vernon, Marcus or Leon, you’re just going straight to NFL safety black name?” one of his white coworkers jests.

Dre defends his decision, telling them the significance of giving his son a name that reflects his culture. Using Muhammad Ali, Kunta Kinte and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as examples, he explains how “black” names have historically been a way to reclaim the culture that slave masters sought to rob slaves of by changing their name.

Rainbow remains steadfast in her disapproval of Dre’s decision to name their son Devonte. While at Starbucks she works hard to convince him to change his mind. She turns in two exact resumes to a job site with one difference, one is Devonte Johnson, the other Michael Johnson. The results, numerous callbacks for Michael, while nothing but a bail bonds ad for Devonte. Ouch. Dre remains undeterred in his decision. That is until he tells the barista that his name is Devonte and the barista proceeds to butcher it to death.

“I have a venti for Dave. Dave venti? Devon tea? I have a hot tea for Devon” the confused naif barista says.

In spite of Dre’s previous insistence, this experience finally changes his mind … momentarily. During the next scene, Dre is mulling over white names to give their son when Rainbow joins him. Struggling with the decision, what ensues is the most poignant 20 seconds of the entire episode.

“I grew up with the Ledariuses, the JaMarcuses and the Dequans. Those names reflect who we are. The only reason we aren’t naming our son Devonte is so people won’t know right away he’s black. I hate the fact that whenever something is black the world sees it as bad … If we want our baby to be proud of who he is we can’t be afraid to give him a name that says ‘this is who I am.'” Dre says.

Dre strikes at the core of the real life dilemma many black people face when naming their children. It’s another example of Black-ish expertly navigating through contemporary race relations and delineating the perspective of the black community. In the end the couple agrees to name their son Devonte for the reasons that Dre announced. The episode ends on a humorous note though with Rainbow, like Dre before, accidentally exposing their favoritism for the new baby in front of their children. Oops.

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