This week’s new episode of Sydney to the Max is another big topic story, dealing with racism and microaggressions. A relatively new term, Max’s story in the 90’s deals with Leo encountering assumptions being made about him because of the color of his skin. In the present, Sydney and her classmates are given assignments that correspond to their skin colors as well. Here’s a recap of “Do the Write Thing,” the title for which feels more inspired by Max’s story, so I’ve put that one first.
A reporter from the Portland newspaper is coming to do an interview about the computer club, which was started by Leo. When he gets there, Alisha adds that she led a car was to pay for the computers. The reporter is distracted by a more exciting story and among the four kids in the room, Mas is the only white member of the club. As the kids tell the reporter why they joined, Max says he had nothing better to do. The reporter gets a call about that other story and ducks out, but promises that they will love the story.
The next day, Leo comes to Max’s house because a neighbor’s dog chewed up his newspaper. Judy shows him the paper and Leo gets upset. The only photo is of Max, which credits him as being the president of the club. Max is confused, but Leo tells him the reporter probably didn’t think that an African American kid could be president of the club. “Sadly, stuff like this happens to me all the time.” Leo tells Max that sometimes, customers at the arcade think it’s Max’s parents who must own it. Leo decides to talk to Vice Principal Virmani about it.
At school, Leo finds Vice Principal Virmani in the computer lab, who apologizes about the article and offers to call the reporter. Virmani tells Leo that he has faced discrimination because of his skin color, too, adding that he had to fight to get the Vice Principal job. Leo is inspired and decides he wants to talk to the reporter himself.
Leo is nervous about talking to the reporter, but Max tries to hype him up. The reporter arrives and when Leo tells him about the mistake he made, the reporter calls it an innocent mistake. “You came into a computer club that I started and thought that I couldn’t possibly be president because of the color of my skin,” Leo tells him. “You took that huge accomplishment away from me and I can’t even begin to tell you how much that hurts.” The reporter apologizes and promises to print a retraction. Max and Virmani high five Leo when the reporter walks out.
The next day, Leo comes over to Max’s house with the new paper, which features his picture in the corrected article. “Mr. Virani was right, the only way to change things is to stand up for what’s right,” Leo says.
Ms. Anderson passes out a new assignment in social studies, passing out American heroes that the students have to give a presentation on. “I think you’re going to love the iconic figures I picked for you,” she tells the students. Sydney got civil rights leader John Lewis and she’s bummed because she had hinted to the teacher that she wanted Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who her friend Emmy got. Olive got Susan B. Anthony.
That night, Olive and Emmy are over working with Sydney in the living room on their projects. Sydney confesses that she feels a little weird about who they were all assigned, noticing that the ethnicities of the heroes match their ethnic backgrounds, at least in part. Olive doesn’t think it’s an issue but Emmy says she felt that way too. She told her sister about it, who told her what Ms. A did is called a “Microaggression.” Sydney thinks they should ask the other students who they got to make sure it’s not just them.
At school, Sydney finds out that Ned, a Black boy, got Barack Obama. “It’ll be an easy project, I’ve already been assigned him twice.” An Asian girl was assigned author Amy Tan and a Native American girl was assigned olympic athlete Jim Thorpe. Sydney thinks they should do something, but she’s not sure what it should be.
Sydney asks her classmates to meet her at Reynold’s Rides, where Max is wearing padding and a helmet with a lacrosse stick to try and get a pigeon out of the bathroom (he’s afraid of birds). With her classmates present, they talk about how they don't feel alone knowing that they all felt weird about the project. The kids share stories about other encounters with assumptions based on their race, with Sydney’s being about a time when someone thought she was adopted because she’s half Black and her dad is white. At the end of the meeting, the other students nominate Sydney to talk to Ms. A about their concerns.
Max finds Sydney in her room and asks what her meeting at the cafe was about. She tells him about the assignment and he offers to talk to Ms. Anderson for her. “Thanks dad, you just helped me realize this is something I need to handle myself,” Sydney tells him.
The next day, Sydney goes to Ms. A during her lunch break and asks why she assigned the heroes she did. “I chose people who I thought would be the kind of inspiring role models you’d like to learn more about,” the teacher says. “Me and the other kids were kind of wondering if you made those assignments based on our race,” Sydney asks. “I just wanted to choose people who you could see yourselves in, role models who look like you.” Ms. Anderson adds that she goes to marches and fights for underrepresented voices. The teacher thinks the matter is resolved, but Sydney looks like she’s bothered by her response as she leaves.
That night, Max solved his pigeon problem by simply leaving the bathroom door open. Sydney tells him how her meeting with Ms. A went. “It sounds like she was more concerned with justifying her own actions than how you felt,” Max observes. He suggests that Sydney try talking to her again and she draws inspiration from John Lewis. “Maybe me and my friends need to get together and do something. You know what John Lewis said, ‘Never be afraid to get into good trouble.’”
It’s presentation day and Ms. A asks who is brave enough to go first. After a moment of hesitation, Sydney gets up. “Tell us how John Lewis inspired you,” Ms. A enthusiastically says. “He inspired me not to do my project on him,” Sydney says as she opens her project to reveal that she did hers on Sonia Sotomayor. The other students open their projects and Ms. A sees that they’ve swapped them around. They tell her that they chose heroes they wanted to learn about more than ones that looked like them. “See Ms. A? It’s not that we didn’t want to learn about the heroes you assigned, it’s that we don’t only want to learn about people of our race,” Sydney tells her. “You know, what I love about teaching is that I never stop learning from my students and you all have taught me a lot today,” Ms. A shares, apologizing to her students for making them feel limited by the way she distributed heroes.
Sydney to the Max returns on Friday, June 18th with another new episode called “Cool Intentions.” Here’s the official episode description from Disney Channel:
When Max goes away for the weekend and leaves his mother in charge, Sydney takes advantage of her “cool” grandma by arranging a sleepover on a Sunday night. In the ’90s, Judy believes Max broke something even though he keeps denying his involvement.