Next time you need to explain to someone how racism works, point them to the second episode of Freeform’s Party of Five. It’s called “Margin of Error” and explores how people of color get far fewer chances than their white counterparts. For the Acosta children, they can’t even be raised by their parents, thanks to their country’s draconian immigration laws. And instead of their community rallying to support them, they’re met with harsh criticism and knowing stares.
The episode opens with brothers Emilio and Beto at the doctor’s office, mistaken for a squabbling gay couple as they argue over what’s going on with their siblings. When they explain that their parents were deported, the clueless white lady gives them a smug look. Later, when Lucia tries to reason with her physics teacher, she gets even less compassion. The woman literally tells her, “Actions have consequences Lucia… Some of us do things as they are supposed to be done. We take time. We do the work. We come to this country legally. I’m sorry that what your parents did put you at risk — even though it makes things worse for the rest of us who have to prove over and over again that we have the right to be here. There are no free passes.”
But there are free passes, plenty of them for privileged white folks, everywhere from school to the justice system to the workforce. Just compare Felicity Huffman to Kelley Williams-Bolar, both mothers who broke the rules to help their kids get ahead in school. Williams-Bolar falsified her address to qualify for a better public school and ended up in jail. Huffman literally bribed someone and got a slap on the wrist. You know which one is white and which one isn’t. And the same goes for the stories we tell, the words we use. Remember when Olympian Ryan Lochte made up a story about being mugged in Rio and people excused his behavior as that of a “kid”? He was 32 at the time (and white). Meanwhile, too-young-to-drink Gabby Douglas faced intense online bullying for… not smiling enough? It’s racism. And it’s what the Acosta kids are finding all around them.
So what’s a POC to do? It turns out you have to create your own support system to survive — let alone thrive! For many Latinx that means the church. But the reality is, Catholicism isn’t for everyone. In “Margin of Error,” we see the two sisters Lucia and Val having the same disagreement we’ve all had, the one between believer and nonbeliever. Lucia doesn’t want her younger sister getting false hope while Val wants her older sister at least to stop lying to her parents about going to church. When Lucia confronts the priest about how she thinks he’s leading Val astray, he tells her, “I don’t think you’re angry at her for praying. I think maybe you’re angry that she might find some peace in prayer when you have none.” By the end of the episode, Lucia has found some peace, even joining her sister in the pews. It’s a nice moment, even if a bit too easy (as we all know that folks aren’t so easily reconciled to their faiths). All the same, it illustrates how POC build our own communities when the state institutions fail us.
And it’s particularly needed in the broken Acosta family whose parents are across the border in Mexico. From there, they can only do so much. They can ask their kids to go to church, have family dinner, and take care of each other. But what does that mean without their presence? The kids try to perform for them, showing a united, happy front but eventually that breaks down. Lucia’s throwing parties in their absence, Beto’s failing tests, and Emilio and Val are fighting. When the world is stacked against you, it’s hard to show up day in and day out for the ones you love. Yet we keep trying. That’s the struggle of life – and it’s what makes Party of Five so compelling.