To call FX’s new reality show Black. White. shallow would be an understatement. It’s also pointless, exceptionally trite, filled with cringe-worthy stereotypes, and teeming with double standards.
This overhyped show about two families trading races is standard reality TV. One of the show’s producers is rapper Ice Cube, who also raps (sings?) the title song. “Please don’t believe the hype,” he says. Yes, please don’t.
The two families volunteered to live together in a house in the Los Angeles area for six weeks last summer and undergo hours-long makeup sessions to switch races. The Sparkes, a black family from Atlanta include: Brian, a 41-year-old contractor; his wife Renee, a 38-year-old office manager; and their son Nick, 17. The Marcotulli-Wurgels from California include: Carmen, a 47-year-old location scout; her shack-up boyfriend, Bruno Marcotulli, a 47-year-old teacher; and her 17-year-old daughter Rose.
The point of the show was evident. The white family, on the defensive the whole time, was supposed to experience “racist” America as blacks. They were obviously tense and very careful about what they said, which resulted in lines like this from Carmen: “I love black. Visually and heart-wise, there’s a warmth.”
Whatever that means.
Each family was supposed to teach the other how to pass as members of the other race, but it was all one way. Bruno showed off his “black walk,” then Brian showed Bruno the “black” handshake. Cringe-worthy fare.
The double standards were evident as the black family said things that would never be tolerated from a white family. Renee implied that white women were nosy, and I waited in vain for Carmen to say something in response to the generalization.
In the pilot episode, we see evidence of so-called racism through Brian, who goes to a shoe store in whiteface. “As a white guy, I’m relaxed when I’m shopping,” he says. A white salesman assists him and does what salespeople do in upscale shoe stores—puts the shoes on the customer’s feet. Brian is amazed. “It’s never happened to me black in 40 years, and the first time I go and buy shoes as a white, I have it done,” he insists.
This is what passes for racism in 2006. To see if his hypothesis was true, Brian should’ve gone back to the same store without the makeup.
Later, Brian in whiteface applies for and lands a job as a bartender in a mostly-white neighborhood. On his first day, he’s mindful of how he speaks, associating proper grammar with speaking “white.” He asked a white patron about the neighborhood, who said it had remained mostly white, which he implied was safer. Brian was shocked.