This Is Us captured the complexity of interracial families

Image source: Getty / Ron Batzdorff / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal

I remember my mom begging me to watch “This Is Us” when it first aired in 2016, and as soon as I listened, I became forever connected to the family story. Pearson. Part of what makes this show so unique is the diversity of the family and the wide range of challenges the characters endure throughout the series. It provides a viewing experience where everyone can find a character to relate to in some way. The wholesome nature of the show and the endless parallels between the Pearsons’ story and any family was what made it so special. After six years of captivating hearts across the country, the emotional series finale “This Is Us” aired May 24th and left me with a reminder of exactly why I connected so deeply with this family. imaginary from the start.

Anyone who has watched “This Is Us” has undoubtedly found different aspects of the story relatable. As for me, I was drawn to Randall, although I didn’t understand exactly why until the series ended.

Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown) is adopted by Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) after the loss of one of their newborn triplets, making him the only black member of the Pearson family. Although Randall is unconditionally loved by his adoptive parents and accepted as family just as much as his siblings Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley), a piece of the puzzle in his life is missing. He knows nothing of his biological parents or his blood relatives, and as a result, he struggles with feelings of being ostracized in a predominantly white community for the majority of his upbringing.

THIS IS US, Lonnie Chavis, Milo Ventimiglia in 'Career Days', (Season 1, Episode 106, aired November 1, 2016), ph: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/courtesy Everett Collection

Image source: Everett Collection

As I dutifully watched each episode, I found myself connecting with Randall’s struggle to find authenticity in his darkness and a sense of belonging to his world. My family is different from the Pearsons, of course, but I experienced Randall-like angst and confusion throughout my childhood and teenage years. My mother is white and my father is black, and both were adopted.

Like Randall, I grew up in a predominantly white area where it was hard to be one of the few people to stand out. I remember the way people looked at me and my mom, wondering how we could be related, and I remember the looks people gave my dad when we were doing normal things like grocery shopping or spend a day on the lake. .

Randall was caught between society’s expectations of him as a black child and his white family, and his story struck me as true. I remember wishing my brown skin, curls and curves were gone, and desperately wanting to fit in and be “normal” sometimes. Deep down, a big part of me never felt 100% understood, and I think Randall felt the same on “This Is Us.”

Randall searched for a community he could relate to throughout the series and eventually settled down and found what it meant to him to be a black man in America. In the early seasons of the show, we watch Randall agonize over the blanks in his life following his adoption. His relief and joy at discovering his father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), sparks seething resentment towards his adoptive mother, Rebecca, when he finds a letter she had written swearing never to tell Randall about her biological father or conversations. she had with him. Later, Randall’s grief is palpable when he discovers the story of his biological mother, Laurel (Jennifer C. Holmes), and learns that she did not die of an overdose after birth but that she died of breast cancer a few years before her. lover, Hai (Vien Hong), contacted him.

THIS IS US, lr: Susan Kelechi Watson, Sterling K. Brown in 'Pilot' (Season 1, Episode 1, aired September 20, 2016).  Phone.  : Ron Batzdorff/NBC/courtesy Everett Collection

Image source: Everett Collection

For me, having two parents who were both adopted, I know what it’s like to have an endless list of unanswered questions. With adoption, there are so many unknowns. In my family, my mother knows her biological parents, but my father chose not to look for his. I respect both of their choices and understand to the best of my ability why they did it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t holes in my life yet that I’ve always wondered about. Writing “no information” on medical forms and having no immediate black relatives in my life is a challenge, and while it’s no one’s fault, there are times when my questioning turns to hurting what I will never know.

Adoption is more complicated than a child having a family at home. There is pain, struggle, and a seemingly endless list of “what ifs” that continue throughout this child’s life and the generations that follow. As we saw on the latest episode of “This Is Us,” Randall’s adopted daughter, Deja (Lyric Ross), announces that she’d like to name her son after his biological grandfather, William, even though she never met him personally. Randall’s reaction makes it clear how much it means to him, how much he takes the loss of a father he only knew for a brief moment, and how the adoption affects future stories.

IT'S US --

Image source: Getty/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

In the final episode of the series, when Jack and Rebecca are browsing a toy store and come across a set of tailed pins on the donkey with a picture of a family similar to theirs on the front, Rebecca says, ” Maybe there is another family like ours.” The more people feel free to live their most authentic lives and push the boundaries of how things have always been, the more blended and beautiful our families become.

Growing up in a family that doesn’t fit the mold can be difficult and messy, but it’s also wonderful. I wouldn’t trade him for anything, and I’m sure Randall Pearson wouldn’t either. “This Is Us” represented the endless types of families that exist in this world and gave viewers with “non-traditional” families a platform where they could feel seen and validated through the Pearsons’ story.

Sharon D. Cole