Tracee Ellis Ross: Black-ish is a family comedy about a black family. It’s one of the things that’s interesting about the show. We’re not a family who happens to be black. We are a black family dealing with their ish. So although the show is not about being black within the ish, a lot of cultural, identity, race, all those kind of things come up.
Angela Yee: I think the show would benefit you, DJ Envy.
Tracee: Oh ok.
Angela: Envy doesn’t want his kids to know that they’re black.
Tracee Ellis Ross: Oh! You don’t want them to know they’re black?!
DJ Envy: That’s not true.
Angela Yee: Envy doesn’t want black people around them.
Envy: That’s not true.
Tracee: This is fascinating.
Charlamagne: It’s true to a certain extant.
Tracee: Do you have kids?
Charlamagne: Yes, I have a 6-year-old daughter.
Envy: I have four children and I live in an area where there’s not too many of us there. So my kids are not gonna have that many black friends because there’s not that many black people in my area.
Charlamagne: I think me and Envy’s mentality is more like your character Rainbow [on the show], in the fact that, we’re not tryna teach them anything. Just let them live. Let them be who they’re gonna be.
Tracee: Anthony Anderson’s character on the show, he wants them to know where they come from. It really is that internal question that all of us are asking: ‘How do you give your kids more than you had and yet what is it that’s important as a parent to pass on to your children?’ And then at the end of the day, you end up learning from your kid. Because they are the ones living in this different society. It’s kind of a fascinating thing when you talk to young kids and you’re like, ‘Isn’t it extraordinary that we have a black president?’ And they’re like, ‘Why do you keep talking about the fact that he’s black? Why do you sound racist?’
Envy: My kids don’t care if Barack Obama is black, they don’t care what he is, he’s just a person and that’s what I love. That’s why I didn’t get as a kid. When I grew up in Queens, it was, ‘We’re black, we stay together,’ but my kids don’t care. They play with Tommy, they play with Jennifer, and Michelle.
Tracee: I understand, but then I have a question: So it is always a point though when it’s whether you’re pulled over, driving while black or when a Ferguson situation where there is a moment as a parent that you do want your child to understand the legacy of what we come from and how that does impact the decisions we make and possibly how you need to navigate the reality of the world. And yet, it is our children who are going to start to change the perspective so that hopefully these are not things we have to deal with, but we’re not quite there yet. I think that’s what the show straddles; it’s a comedy but we really are dealing with those issues.
Charlamagne: I like the show because it shows that racism is a learned behavior. Like the kids on the show, they really have no clue about race, but Anthony Anderson’s is tryna instill it in them like—
Angela: [chimes in] Yeah but until somebody calls you the n-word one day and you’re like ‘what?’ I grew up in a black neighborhood and then I ended up going to private school in seventh grade where there were barely any black kids and there was a lot of racism I never had to deal with before. They were writing the n-word in the locker room, sending out racist Valentine’s Day cards.
Tracee: I think a show like Black-ish allows us to show us having these conversations. A lot of times, race is a hard thing to talk about because everybody has a different experience of it and it’s a hot topic issue because there’s some real stuff around it. So to be able to have these conversations, I think is really important. Otherwise, I think people shy away from the conversations, so hopefully this is the kind of show that is the water cooler talk.
Charlamange: You’re a biracial woman. Did you have any identity issues growing up?
Tracee: No. I don’t know if it’s just the perspective that my mother raised me with, but being of mixed heritage was really exciting to me as a kid. I felt really excited that when I went over my dad’s house there was a Christmas tree in the living room and a menorah in the kitchen. I found that it really gave me an opportunity to connect with what was the same about me and somebody else. It made me comfortable in all environments. I do like, within the context of this show, Pops’ point of view, the Laurence Fishburne’s character that’s very old school, Dre [Anthony Anderson’s character] who kind of straddles that, and the kids who are very colorless in the way they see, Rainbow is right in the middle. She’s more colorful. It’s not that she’s looking for a colorblind or a colorless world. It’s actually a world that has all of it. That a good thing and the beauty of this country, honestly.
Charlamage: Was there ever a moment when you were made aware that you were black?
Tracee: First of all, I’ve never known that I wasn’t black.
Charlamagne: Like in a negative moment.
Tracee: I’ve had moments; I had moments where the cab has pulled up and pulled away, especially if my hair is out. They get a little closer and keep on moving. For some reason, I can’t think of stuff now but I’ve always known I was black. In an interview recently, someone said, ‘So as a mixed woman, why is it that you identify as a black woman?’ If I thought I could try being a white woman for a day and say that maybe I would. I was like, ‘I don’t know if anyone would buy it. No, no, no I’m white. I’m very tan…very tan. I get a perm.’ [laughs]