Leave it to The Carmichael Show to outdo the sheer awkwardness of its Bill Cosby discussion. In Wednesday’s episode, Cynthia’s birthday is nearly ruined after Jerrod’s white friend refers to him as “my n–ga.”
The half hour begins with a conversation about things black people should and shouldn’t be allowed to say. The back-and-forth is sparked by Jerrod and Maxine’s present for Cynthia: a first edition copy of Jacqueline Kennedy’s biography. Bobby immediately calls the gift stupid, insisting that “black people don’t read like that.” Joe agrees with his son, but refers to the generalization as an “embarrassment that black people would rather sweep under the rug — like Stacey Dash.” Jerrod then encourages everyone to divulge other things they’ve been too afraid to say out loud, leading Cynthia to admit that she isn’t a Denzel Washington fan.
To steer his family away from the idea that they can only do things that other black people approve of, Jerrod takes everyone out to Florentine’s, a fancy restaurant owned by the aforementioned white friend, Drew. When they arrive, Jerrod thanks Drew for getting them in at last minute, to which Drew responds, “Anything for you, my n–ga, you know that!”
Once seated, Joe makes his discomfort known: “When a white man uses the N-word, that is a fire alarm in a burning building that you need to get out of.” Jerrod, on the other hand, couldn’t disagree more. “We don’t have to be outraged every time we hear the word, alright? That’s just another black rule that hurts us more than it helps us,” he argues. “It’s just a distraction. We should focus on things that actually matter, like voter suppression, instead of Hulk Hogan or Dog the Bounty Hunter or Justin Timberlake using the N-word.” But that’s not enough to quell the discussion.
Cynthia goes on to voice her own discontent with the current generation’s use of the word, but is willing to let this particular instance go — that is, until she learns Drew is white. In response, Jerrod defends Drew, who has had “nothing but black friends, has dated nothing but black girls,” and is currently wearing Air Jordans. Maxine, meanwhile, argues that Drew’s appropriation of black culture shouldn’t give him a free pass. Moments later, Maxine inadvertently blurts out the derogatory term for the entire restaurant to hear, giving the family the push they need to finally get up and leave.
In the end, the Carmichaels wind up back at Niecy’s, where they’ve dined every other year for Cynthia’s birthday. Both mad at Maxine and displeased with the wait service, Cynthia bookends the episode by making unexpected use of the very word that triggered a dialogue: “Got me up here on my birthday, eating with all these n–gas.” And just like that, with the perfect delivery, Loretta Devine sends the entire audience into hysterics as the scene comes to a close.
What did you think of The Carmichael Show‘s N-word debate?