Sad as it may be to imagine, Ruby Johnson will eventually die. And that's a tragedy, not just because she's one of the funniest characters on black-ish, but because the fictional matriarch's eldest child will be truly heartbroken to lose his mother. The topic of end-of-life planning can be a difficult and emotional one. But Ruby is wise to start the conversation now, while she's still young enough that she "had two pregnancy scares last month." Of course, Dre fights with his sister over their inheritance, but that's mostly because he's so overwhelmed by the idea that his mother won't always be there, with a turban and a prayer to Black Jesus. His sister Rhonda (Raven-Symoné) is far more practical, trying to talk sense into both her mother and brother.
And this episode of black-ish (creator: Kenya Barris) shows that if there's anything harder to manage than prospective grief, it's fairly dividing money. Despite staying with her son and his family, Ruby owns some modest property — a duplex — and tells her children that she's planning to leave the place to Rhonda when she dies. Dre, as the lifelong favorite, is shocked and offended. As it usually does, the show layers a societal critique on top of Dre and Rhonda's squabbles over Ruby's duplex. Dre casually mentions at work that black people tend to inherit less than their white counterparts, something that is backed up by some serious data. According to a study by the Federal Reserve, while almost 23 percent of white families have received an inheritance, only about 10.5 percent of black families can say the same — and, the average white family inherited over $200,000 worth, while black families inherited a comparatively modest average of $85,000. It's no wonder that Dre has literally no idea how to handle this conversation — statistically, he was not likely to have to deal with it.
But back on black-ish, it doesn't really make any logical sense why Dre is so upset about not getting Ruby's condo. Certainly, it's not "fair" that Ruby openly played favorites with her two children for most of their lives because she was uncomfortable that her daughter is a lesbian. But Dre is a wealthy man who owns a large home in an even wealthier neighborhood. The show tries to specify that it's the gesture that hurts Dre's feelings, not the financial consequences, but his sister is a Lyft driver who needs to pick up drunk Lakers fans and recently divorced dads in order to make a living.
But while Dre is certainly being petty over the duplex, and even considers conspiring with a lawyer to steal the property out from under Rhonda, ultimately, they settle on a compromise that will see Rhonda get some financial help but leave both siblings equally invested in the property in hopes of turning it into a family dividend that can be shared amongst the next generation of Johnsons. Dre often thinks about what it means to be a first generation wealthy person. He realized he was cash-poor and asset-rich, and once fired his longtime financial manager because he now has serious money to think about. And he's frequently wondered what will happen if it all goes away, because after making it out of his low-income neighborhood, he's taken care of a network of family and friends. He's a bit like Junior in this episode, frequently called on as the ultimate safety net.
The point is: Dre can be petty about many things, even when he's in do-gooder mode, and his mother's love is certainly important to him. He's often been willing to sacrifice even marital harmony in order to please his mama. But thankfully, in this case, he's able to put the pettiness aside and do what's best for his entire family and all the Johnsons still to come.