I’m probably going to get some shit for this but I identify so much with the show Blackish. No, I’m not pulling a Rachel Dolezal. I’m not trying to pass myself off as anything but the generic white girl that I am. The thing I identify with is background – especially Dre’s lower income/blue collar upbringing. Much of the premise of Blackish is how Dre and Bow have become upper class and have thus raised their children and how they have strayed away from their upbringing. Much of the last and the current season of the show has focused on how they are raising their children. Dre and Bow recognize that their children have no real grit and their oldest son is essentially rudderless and it’s killing them. Neither Dre nor Bow had that luxury and they have no idea how to navigate parenting the bougie children they have created. I have to admit that feeling is all too real for me.
Like the fictional character Dre, I grew up working class. We had enough. We received no public assistance. My parents had a mortgage and two cars – neither of which they could truly afford. They worked hard but they lived beyond their means. We were chronically getting calls from debt collectors threatening to repo something. We weren’t as bad off as our neighbors. Those folks were forever borrowing this big metal key thing my dad had that you could turn the water back on at the street or borrowing electric by running a drop cord from another house. Despite not ever having enough money for extracurricular activities or vacations or most anything fun, I never felt poor. But, I do remember thinking there was no way I was going to live like that when I got to be an adult. I went to college, got a degree and a decent job and have actively tried to distance myself from the dingy neighborhoods of my youth.
The funny thing about that “I will not live like that” promise is it gave me something that cannot be taught, manufactured or cajoled. It gave me grit. Grit makes you want to do better so you do better – maybe not Oprah better – but better than you were. (Whispers – Y’all knew I had to mention Oprah.) My kids don’t have grit and neither do Dre and Bow’s kid on Blackish. They’ve never had to have grit. They always knew Mom and Dad would be there to pick up the pieces if shit hit the fan. I wish there was a way to foster grit in my kids without going back to the life I grew up in. I sometimes think my kids think that having a good life just happens without very much work, determination, ambition, and grit. I’ve tried to tell them otherwise but I don’t think they get it. I’ve tried to tell them that they will have to struggle in order to get where they want in life. Maybe their struggle will hit when they get out of school and realize you really have to hustle with their job to make it happen. Or, maybe they will just muddle through life and never attain grit. That scares me. I know I don’t have as much grit as my grandparents had. You know the people who fought and won WWII. Yeah, those folks had grit. It seems to me every other generation since then has had less and less grit. At the rate we’re going the only grit anyone will have is the kind that resides in a Southerners’ pantry shelf. Quick cook variety not instant if you please.