‘This Is Us’ Younger Pearsons Reflect on Black Love: ‘It’s So Deep’

In season two of “This Is Us,” Randall Pearson’s (Sterling K. Brown) story arc sets him on a path to becoming the adoptive parent of Deja (Lyric Ross), a black teenager caught in the revolving doors of the host family. care system. In this season’s seventh episode, titled “The Most Disappointed Man,” the storyline leads Randall to address Deja’s birth mother’s concerns that the teenager’s blackness will be whitewashed.

“Do you have a white wife?” Shauna asks Randall after he expresses his desire to place Deja in a better school.

“Don’t twist it, sister,” Randall replies. “I wake up every day with a scarf and coconut oil. I’m married to a black queen, none of your business.

Randall’s lyrics turned out to be a big moment for viewers who had grown accustomed to watching black characters whose love interests are predominantly white. By expressing his admiration for his wife and appreciation for all the parts that make her black, Randall displays an act of black love, a term many have learned and understood over the show’s six seasons.

“Randall and Beth as a black couple together, they’re always good at communicating well with each other and they always support each other in each other’s work, like when Beth dreamed of opening a dance studio,” Faithe Herman, who began playing Annie Pearson on the series at age 6, added. “They are always a great support system for each other.”

Black love exists in a multitude of forms. It is above all the simultaneous act of loving a black person and understanding how race affects their daily existence and their relationship with you.

“I first learned about black love through my mom and dad,” Niles Fitch (who played teenage Randall) told TODAY, adding that starring on the show made him had broadened his understanding of what black love means. “It made me realize how cool being black is and how (important) surrounding yourself with black people is because it’s something that can be easily forgotten.”

Throughout its run, “This Is Us” has challenged its main characters to learn more about the concept. At various points, each member of the Pearson family is set on a path to understanding the responsibility they have to black people in their lives, and the series does this primarily through the various storylines surrounding Randall and the members of his own family. Jack, Rebecca, Kate, and Kevin are each made to reflect on this throughout the series, whether in confrontations with their adopted black family member, Randall, or his children.

(LR) Lyric Ross as Deja, Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth, Sterling K. Brown as Randall, Eris Baker as Tess, Faithe Herman as Annie.Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Jack is called upon to do so when he realizes his son will need black male role models in his life and enrolls him in a karate class run by black men.

Kate and Kevin begin the journey of participating in black love shortly after the 2020 George Floyd protests. After seasons of tension between the brothers, Kevin and Randall have a long-awaited conversation about how race has affected the latter in season five, episode 13 of the show, titled “Brother Love”.

“You’re my black, smart, successful brother… I think I may have resented that. I thought you were getting special treatment mixed in with the fact that you were black. Kevin admits finally Randall in the episode “And I wanted to take you down a notch.”

It’s a tough admission, but one that puts Randall on the mend for how his white brother has often contributed to his sense of different identity, even in their family home. By shedding his ego, admitting a hard truth, and finally acknowledging his failures, Kevin begins to untie the knots and tangles of his actions for his brother. For the first time, Kevin does the work necessary to maintain a balanced relationship with Randall.

Kate and Randall’s relationship dynamic is less toxic and soulful than that between Randall and Kevin, but a tearful conversation between them also triggers a significant shift. In episode two of the fifth season, Kate is seen constantly “checking in” with her brother regarding the events related to the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and attempts to apologize for what she thinks he owes. to feel.

“Specifically, what are you apologizing for? Randall finally asks. “You never apologized before.”

“I don’t know, it’s different,” Kate replies.

Of course, as Randall points out, nothing about the death of George Floyd or the protests and riots that followed was different. Kate was just guilty of not paying attention to an essential part of her black brother’s experience for four decades. The conversation is not as intense as those between Randall and Kevin or even Randall and Jack. Yet by pausing and giving her brother a chance to vent his frustrations, Kate practices the act of love. Putting aside the urge to stand up for herself, or even get a pat on the head for being a white person supporting a black person, Kate manages to conjure up an essential ingredient for black love and race relationships: listen.

By season six, episode 10 of the series, titled “Every Version of You”, Rebecca and Randall’s story allows them to mend the wounds caused by Rebecca’s flaws as a white mother to a black son. . She administers black love to Randall upon realizing his flaws in being active to learn more about Blackness. In the episode, she demonstrates this by simply reading. After seeing a profile on Randall in which he shares his favorite book, she also begins reading “Homegoing,” a novel with themes of intergenerational race-related trauma.

By the end of the series, these four characters practice black love by acknowledging the race-related anxiety, fears, heartaches, and joys that Randall has endured throughout his life.

“‘This Is Us’ didn’t need to address that,” Eris Baker (Tess Pearson) told TODAY of how the show has worked to address topics like Black Lives Matter and race. “We could have continued where we were already going, but I’m really glad Dan (Fogelman) and the rest of the writers wanted to include that.”

Of course, black love is not without its difficulties. At various points on “This Is Us,” viewers watched Beth and Randall struggle in their relationship. In the third season of the series, the question of their ability to hold their own against the odds is up in the air.

“Black love, it’s so deep. You can say ‘I love you’ I don’t know how many times and not really because your actions don’t say it right…it’s not just about voice,” Ross told TODAY.

Ross added that seeing the ups and downs of Beth and Randall’s relationship taught him that love takes work.

“In different relationships, whether it’s with your partner, whether it’s with your daughter or your son, whether it’s with your friends, it always takes work, but even trying – it’s love,” a- she declared. “Trying to work things out to communicate, to be vulnerable, to open up, that’s love. You do that because you love that person. So I think that really comes with the action.

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