The Fresh Prince and Carlton

Recently Flor and I have decided to introduce the kids to a staple of our culture. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. You all remember running home to catch Will on TV and laughing your young brown butt off the chair. Since the kids are huge Willow and Jaden Smith fans we knew they had to get to know their papa. We bought the first season of Fresh Prince. The kids love the show. They know all about Jeffrey, Carlton, Ashley and Hilary. They especially had fun with the episode where Uncle Phil's parents come to visit and they tell Will that they called Uncle Phil "Zeke" and that his best friend was his pet pig "Milton". Funny stuff maine. I never really remember paying to much attention to the social and racial issues that Fresh Prince had in its core.

I let the kids stay up a little extra time since Flor wasn't home, but it was only for a little bit. We watch an episode called "Mistake Identity". The premise of the story is that Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv are going to a couples vacation at Palm Springs with Uncle Phil's partner in their Law Firm. Uncle Phils partner askes Carlton to drive his car down to him in Palm Springs because they are taking his wifes new helicopter down and they want their car. Will tags along. While Will and Carlton are driving down they get lost. Will tells Carlton to stop and ask someone for directions but before they can do that they get pulled over. They get "mistaken" for car thieves who have stolen various cars in the Palm Springs area and they are taken into jail.

Once in jail they try to call Uncle Phil but he cant answer them and they call Jeffrey but he is off duty so he hangs up on them. Will and Carlton then concoct a scheme to fake a confession so they can get on TV so that Uncle Phil can see them since Carlton knows he is watching the football game. The plan works and Uncle Phil goes to get the boys.

After Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian get the boys out of jail, Will and Carlton have a very good conversation.....

(I cant embed the video right now so here is the link:

After Carlton and Will's argument Natalia and Andrei are quiet. I can see the gears in their brilliant minds turning, digesting the events that just happened in a way I never did when I was a kid. They look at me and I can tell they want to talk about it. I stand up from the couch, turn the blu-ray player off and start walking to the kitchen to get a cup of water. Without fail my troop gets up and follows me.

"So..... Who do you think was right? Will or Carlton?" I ask as i serve the three of them some water.

"Will.", says Nati as she jumps on the counter. "Those cops where mean to them. They didnt even do anything wrong."

"Yeah," says Andrei. "Will and Carlton where just driving and they where making Carlton cry."

"You think that Carlton was right too? What if they did have a map? Would they have been lost and got pulled over?"

"No." they say.

"So they where both right in a way, you think?" i ask them.

The gears keep grinding away as they try to process this further.

"I think they are both right." I say after there is a long enough pause. "Carlton is right, if they had a map and where prepared they wouldn't have been pulled over and gotten in trouble, but even though they got lost,  the cops shouldn't have been mean to them. Sometimes that happens, we get treated badly for no reason. We have to always be prepared and stand up against that. Its hard for Carlton because he never had to deal with cops before. Will has because he grew up in a bad neighborhood so he already knew what was going to happen."

"Its cuz Carlton isnt really Black huh dad?", Nati asks me.

"He is. That was part of Will's point, that even though Carlton doesn't believe they where being mean to him because he was Black, they still were. He can never not be a Black man."

Then I asked them if they remember about Uncle Phil. How he was a poor kid in North Carolina with a pet pig and no money. His parents worked hard so he can have everything. I told the kids that that is the dream of all parents. When Uncle Phil grew older he stood with Dr. King so that Black and Brown kids could be equal to whites and be able to go to the same schools. Because of that he was able to make a good life for himself and his kids. Thats why Hilary and Ashley can have anything they want and Carlton can go to a pre law school. Its also why they could take care of Will and help him have a better life.

"Thats cool dad."

"Yup, now go to bed!"

It was a goodnight. The kids went right to bed. I wonder how they are going to live these experiences. I remember how sad Natalia was when she went to Elk Meadows. I wont ever forget how she was slapped in the face by a white boy and she got in trouble for it. Now that she is at Jackson Elementary I worry a little less but its always at the back of my head. My boys too. Carlton and Will's situation can happen to them someday.

I think Carlton was right in a way. We have to make sure that we have a map always. Even then we know that we carry the history and love of our people in our skin and our facial features. Its on us to help out kids grow up in a better world and place. Thats truly our struggle, why we fight against racism and sexism and struggle so hard to get through their hoops.

-- Isaac


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