A thoughtful moment, on Fox network?
The show: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Season 4, Episode 16 The moment: Picking a battle
Policeman Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) was stopped by a white cop for walking down his own street. When he tried talking to the cop later, the cop justified his actions. So Terry asks Capt. Holt (Andre Braugher) to file a formal complaint.
To his surprise, Holt refuses. “That complaint could backfire,” Holt says. “I don’t want to see your career derailed.”
Terry says, “I wasn’t harassed for being a cop. I was harassed for being a black man.”
“I’m not saying do nothing,” Holt says. “I’m saying the most powerful action you can take is to rise through the ranks, so you can make large-scale changes.” Later Holt files the complaint — after admitting to Terry that he fell victim to old thinking. As a gay, black cop, he had to play it safe to rise. But why does he have power now, if not to use it?
This scene is interesting for two reasons. First, it’s fascinating to watch two black characters having a dialogue about the best way to combat racism on a lighthearted, mainstream U.S. network sitcom.
Second, that U.S. network is Fox. Since the 1970s, sitcom writers have used their comedies to address so-called taboos and to break down viewers’ prejudices against marginalized people — rape on All in the Family, biracial marriage on The Jeffersons, homosexuality on Ellen. But teaching viewers about racial profiling on the network that serves as the mouthpiece for Donald Trump? Well, these are turbulent cultural times indeed. Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. on Fox and Citytv. Johanna Schneller is a media connoisseur who zeroes in on pop-culture moments. She usually appears Monday through Thursday.