members of his gang. He costumes himself in Blackness as armor
against the war ahead. Carl uses this appropriated version of
Blackness to establish power within the Chicago community.
While serving his one-year sentence in juvenile detention, he
emerges as an unlikely leader within the Black community. Over
time, viewers witness the rise of Carl’s hyper-masculine demeanor
and rich usage of Ebonics as a language. When he is later released,
one might expect Carl to “return” to his “normal” self, a likely
outcome of code-switching. Instead, Carl does the opposite he
maintains this sense of Blackness upon release to terrorize local
small business owners and build upon his previous reputation.
Quite often, his close family friend Vi (Shanola Hampton)
criticizes his abuse of Blackness. Writers even pair him with a tall,
300-pound, Black partner, Nick (Victor Unuigbo), to define the
form and purpose of Blackness. The two continue to use the fear
and violence associated with gang members of color to patrol the
streets as Southside Kings. Before long, Nick returns to the prison
system for the brutal murder of an innocent, neighborhood child,
which leaves Carl to define Blackness on his terms. Carl soon
realizes that he is better off “going straight” and removing himself
from the community he forced his way into earlier when it suited
his purposes. He undoes his braids, changes his attire, and softens
his harsh demeanor toward others, but he is not yet free. It is time
to face his boss and stop dealing drugs for the older man’s
organization once and for all. After buying his freedom with a
collection of clothes and a vehicle, Carl gives up the violent street
culture and is finally redeemed. Blackness, once a utilitarian
experience that provided security, has become a sin from which he
finds redemption.
The use of Blackness as a journey demonstrates a great
irony in this show’s plot development: in an attempt to re-define
“normal,” the writers of Shameless exploit the Black experience as a
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