The smartest political coverage of the 2016 election came from the unlikeliest of sources, Saturday Night Live and Black-ish. Both comedies were able to highlight how the political and racial divides that separate African-Americans and working-class whites is artificial and the two groups have more in common than they think.
Black-ish portrays a well educated black family living in the suburbs with an intact nuclear family where the father is an advertising executive, and the mother is a surgeon. The comedy revolves around the father wanting to pass along his urban culture to his children who are for the most part uninterested.
The show isn’t afraid to talk about politics and promote the notion that to be black is to be a Democrat. In the first season, the parents freak out when they find out that their son, Marcus, has joined the young Republicans.
A more recent episode featured the main character’s daughter asking her grandmother to take a quiz on who she should support for president.
“Oh sweetie, I know which candidate I line up with, whoever’s a Democrat,” the character Ruby said.
She then went on to discuss how global warming was a myth, why there should be a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and the need more surveillance on Muslim communities.
On SNL, Tom Hanks plays a Trump supporter who’s competing on “Black Jeopardy” and quickly creates a comradery with the host and other guests over issues playing the lottery, government surveillance, conspiracy theories, Tyler Perry, and skinny girls being useless.
When subject turned to #BlackLivesMatter however, the show ended with the characters being as divided as they were in the beginning.
Working-class whites and blacks are in dire straits, and one group is falling behind while the other is getting ahead. Automation, mass immigration, poor education opportunities, and trade agreements are only making their abilities to move ahead more challenging.
Similarly, upper-middle class blacks and whites have a common desire for security, order, and education.
Faced with the choices of a Republican and Democrat, black and white voters are told to look first and foremost at their skin color for an answer.
Perhaps it won’t always be this way; Hillary Clinton made some efforts to try and make her candidacy more welcoming to college-educated, upper-middle-class whites in the suburbs. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has called for safe streets, better schools, and more job opportunities in urban communities. Nonetheless, neither has managed to move the dial in any significant way.
A post-2016 America will still see African Americans and working whites looking at itself regarding black and white with very little gray.