Carmichael Show Debates Significance of the N-Word In Buzzed-About Ep

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? 

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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17 Comments
  1. flowerduh says:

    They didn’t air the episode tonight. It was a rerun of the Cosby episode. NBC has really got to stop this.

  2. jason says:

    Pretty funny overall. Never felt too preachy. This entire season has been great

    • Gena says:

      I just started getting into it this season, but I thought it was a funny and interesting episode. :) (I’m sure it was just a coincidence, but tonight on ABC, ‘Speechless’ reran their “Prom” episode, which touched on the “R-word” debate in a similarly thoughtful way.)

  3. Ty says:

    Sheer Brilliance … This show is absolutely killing it. Great writers.

  4. LADY_in_MD says:

    The way Loretta Devine delivered that last line was hilarious!

    • Shannon Wright says:

      It had me dying! My mom would definitely do that. Prim and proper one moment, then having no problem using that same vulgarity if she is really ticked off.

  5. Billy meacham says:

    I have directv and it had superstore rerun on the guide at 830 central time but showed a rerun of the Carmichael show. I thought NBC pulled the new episode at the last minute again like last week. NBC needs to get their crap together!!

  6. I have to side with Jerrod on this one, we as black people as bad as that connotation of the word carries have to stop giving so much power to it. My18 yr old son is half black and was recently called the N word by some white teens in a car passing by as he was out with his Latina girlfriend and one of her white female friends.

    He came home to told us about it for he wasn’t sure how he was suppose to feel. In his generation, he’s never experienced the hatred behind the word. I told him as long as someone doesn’t physically harm or being outright disrespectful you do not have to let it offend you.

    Told him to just ignore it and move on. I also feel as blacks we should stop using the word so freely then get upset when the opposite race uses it.

  7. Dave says:

    Absolutely disgraceful!
    Why is this article censored when it was apparently ok to air the hard ‘R’ repeatedly on prime time television!?!
    This is not ok by any means and will only make racial tensions worse.
    Shame on you NBC

    • TV Gord says:

      I don’t understand how it could make racial tensions worse. Unlike most of the shows on television, this one is actually saying something useful and valuable.

      • Chris says:

        Dave just wanted to be offended. This is exactly the way it should be used in a discussion that lots of people will see. Done in a funny way to make it more accessible to everybody. This show is truly something special a comedy with a message, great writers here.

    • Dysturbed says:

      Every episode of the show is intended to get a healthy dialogue going not just with the characters, but with us viewers, about important issues. I get hating the word, most people should and do, but imo you should at least attempt to look past your immediate reaction and realize what the show was trying to convey.

  8. Red Bridges says:

    DirecTV would not have recorded this, it showed a rerun. I knew it was new, so set it manually. So there’s 21 million (million!) potential viewers that didn’t see it.

    NBC needs to rerun this, and fix the effing guide. This was a great episode, by the way.