You Love The Office, but Hate Abbott Elementary. Why?
This week I kept scrolling on Twitter to see a retweet of a video with a white person looking very disgusted with a backdrop of a cast photo of Abbott Elementary behind them. For days I tried to avoid it because I knew nothing good could come from it, but I saw it again and again. What…what could a person find to complain about this new show? With less than five episodes how could white America be offended already? Then I saw this post from a Black male educator:
The lack of support behind the Black woman in this country in all her endeavors never ceases to amaze me. Brunson took this show, set it in her hometown of Philadelphia, and created genius. That is worth uplifting just as strongly as our anger behind a senseless death. And if I have to watch another series about racism or violence against Black people I’m going to lose it. I don’t need Women In The Movement to remember my grandparents had their houses burned down and their siblings lynched; I’ve heard enough stories. And I don’t need to see another video of a Black person being murdered and a white person getting away with it. I’ve been there the last twenty times. If these movements aren’t for preserving Black joy and the fulfillment of our children, then what was Mamie up there for anyway?
As a person who has worked for several non-profits for children and been hired out to teach in schools that were severely underfunded and couldn’t pay actual unionized teachers, I have yet to see one lie in that show. Young suburban teachers are coming into urban schools in droves with the same ideas in their heads as their colonizing parents. Wanting to have the same effect in the hood as missionaries had in Indigenous countries the world over. #WeMadeADifference. Can’t wait to show pics of that random white savior surrounded by Black starving Save-The-Children online.
The only problem is a small bible can’t wipe away the decades of problems teachers often face in this country. Laws don’t work in favor of an urban public school student. I’ll spare you my manifesto, but just know they are pushing those urban school kids to go to iron bars, not ivy leagues. And before you know it, those same twenty-something gentrifying yuppies are running back to the corporate cushion jobs their families had waiting for them all along. Jobs their public school students would never have access to and probably never see due to the education they won’t receive.
I hope these ridicules don’t send Brunson running. Because Abbott Elementary is worthy. This show has the same set-up, it’s a mockumentary too, and that same break of the third wall comedy style. The SAME DIRECTOR, Randall Einhorn, that has worked on The Office and Parks and Rec is working on this show. So what’s the problem? Why is there this backlash for Abbott Elementary that did not exist from white-collar America when Michael Scott donned a bandana and said he was in prison with dementors? I ain’t see NO tweets asking Big Bang Theory to go off air over a broken elevator and clowns that popped up out of nowhere.
Complain, criticize, and construe the story to fit a narrative that gets this show canceled. It’s too much like this. It’s too much like that. Okay…but did you watch Friends? That was a complete rip-off of Living Single without giving the Black women that pitched the idea any credit. Created a Central Perk shining whitewashed version of New York that has never existed, in apartment sets that no coffee waitress or actor could ever afford. And wiped the Black flavor of 90s Brooklyn off of the story concept until that smelly cat version of fake Manhattan got those white people $1 million per episode.
I was a student at one of those public urban schools. With classmates that went to Yale, Juilliard, and traveled across the world. Who became preachers, dancers, and yes teachers. But we all knew the water that flowed through the water fountain pipes in our school was too yellow to drink. We tried to avoid the back stairwell from the black stains on the walls that were eventually confirmed to be what we suspected for years, asbestos. School Bus? Please. We were lucky if we had enough money to catch the city bus to school all week. And this was a public Blue Ribbon School where you had to audition and take an exam to be granted admittance. A lot of those Yale and Juilliard classmates ended up right back in the hood without a degree because we didn’t have teachers like Quinta Brunson’s character Janine to help us be prepared for college as we struggled to just survive. We were always good enough but rarely given the same tools or support as our white counterparts.
Could that be the problem? Could it be that this show Abbott Elementary was started by….a Black woman from Philly instead of Jake from The Hills? And is showing…actual problems teachers within the American public school system face that we try to push under a piss-filled rug? With a mostly Black cast? On a major network? How dare we as Black people create something away from the bad Tyler Perry wig chitlin circuit entertainment that got us here. One might think we as Black people had versatility and depth that could hang with shows like The Office that have been called the greatest of their generation.
I hope Quinta Brunson rides y’all mad little furrowed brows all the way to an Emmy. If you don’t like Black creative ownership just say that. Something tells me the teachers that don’t like Abbott Elementary are probably the teachers that don’t understand the culture, struggle, and everyday life of the people that show represents anyway. Oldheads