The Message Of 'black-ish's Election Episode Is One That Star Marcus Scribner Thinks Should Be Applied To Real Politics
If you watched the ABC series get serious with the Season 2 episode "Hope," then you won't be too surprised about the message behind the black-ish Season 3 episode "40 Acres and a Vote" that aired on Oct. 5 and also wants its audience to not lose hope. But this time, the series is turning viewers' attention to the political process. Marcus Scribner, who plays newly anointed class president Junior, tells Bustle how black-ish managed to stay positive about the political landscape when faced with the reality that President Obama's term is coming to an end, and the 2016 election for his replacement is tumultuous, to say the least.
Right off the bat, Scribner says that he, like Charlie and Dre, would have preferred more time with Obama in office. "Like Charlie, I was like 'we can get him a third term! Let’s do it!' I’m definitely sad to see him go, and he’s had an impact on me as well," the actor says, citing the President as "a lasting inspiration, even after he leaves" the White House. "40 Acres and a Vote" is reverent towards the whole Obama family, and it begins with Dre making several emotional slideshows of Barack, Michelle, Sasha, and Malia's best moments. The Johnsons don't seem particularly excited about voting for Hillary Clinton, and in fact a few members of the family don't even want to vote at all, including Johan (Daveed Diggs, returning for another episode).
As a 16-year-old who's still too young to vote, Scribner says he understands the impulse to sit this election out, but ultimately falls on the same side as the episode when it comes to civic duty. "When [Johan] says he doesn’t want to vote because his candidate is out, he feels like the whole system is rigged against him," Scribner explains. "I can understand where Johan is coming from, but I think it’s important to vote. Especially in this election."
He adds that the episode's bit about the fight against grandfather clauses, literacy tests, and voter ID laws points out lesser-known forms of voter suppression. "In the past, [black Americans] have been barred from voting in different ways. Not innately told that they can’t vote, but strategies used to try to deny our access to voting," Scribner explains. However, his black-ish character is not plagued with that issue in his storyline, where the political process is a lot simpler: Junior is able to succeed in his high school election by simply staying true to who he is, an open-hearted nerd. When his opponent is a jerk to the janitor, Junior only needs to expose that in order to ensure his victory.
Certainly, the 2016 presidential election would be a lot different if simply showing a single person — or even a single demographic group — disrespect was enough to quash a candidate's chances. But Scribner agrees with black-ish's message that if a politician wants to win, all they need to do is remain true to themselves. "As you can see, Junior tries all these ploys to try and win the vote from people," he explains. "But then the thing that wins it in the end is him staying true to himself and doing what he believes is right."
Belief in what's "right" winning out characterizes the entire episode, and seemingly black-ish's approach to many social injustices. While "40 Acres and a Vote" doesn't minimize citizens' rights to question, protest, and second guess the system, ultimately, black-ish believes that if you work within it, you can, like President Obama, inspire "hope and change."
Images: John Fleenor/ABC (3)