This Is Us has been introducing important new characters right and left in Season 4. Though the biggest ones are in the present, the past also gained a few faces who made significant impacts on the Pearson family along the way. For Randall, it's his seventh grade English teacher. But who is Mr. Lawrence on This Is Us, and how has he become such a lifeline to Randall? Warning: Spoilers for This Is Us Season 4 follow.
Watching the This Is Us elementary school-aged level storyline turn into a preteen one is fascinating. This is the point where kids start becoming super self-conscious about everything. And Randall, who was adopted into a white family, is going to suddenly realize how much he's not part of a community of people who look like him. Add in Randall going to a private school, where the student body seems like it's 99% white, and that just compounds it because none of his peers look like him either.
Except for Mr. Lawrence, who the show has suggested is the only African American teacher on the staff. Of course, this is who Randall would look to as a mentor.
And Mr. Lawrence is only too happy to step up to help a kid in need. Jack knows his kid is smarter than him. But he knows nothing of literature, let alone African American authors who will speak to Randall's growing mind. When Randall burbles on about James Baldwin, Mr. Lawrence immediately picks up that Jack has zero idea who that even is, or why this is an author he's suggested Randall should read.
One of the remarkable things about this series is that though it does the "well, it's tough for his parents too," they don't let Rebecca or Jack off the hook. The episode "The Club" spends the time on the golf course forcing Jack to see how they have failed to make sure their son has access to an African American community, because it never occurred to them how valuable such a thing was. It was just easier not to make an effort.
But there's also a flip side. Confronted with this reality, Jack and Rebecca look at each other and realize this is a place where they're failing their son. That's why Mr. Lawrence and his wife are coming to dinner next Saturday, in hopes they can help guide him through this next phase.
It's a start.
In this episode, Jack realizes comparing classism to racism when talking to Randall doesn't work, the two just aren't the same on any level. But when it comes to golf, his larger point does stand, even if he's making it clumsily. He was given an opportunity once, by Rebecca's father, on a golf course, because this is where the rich make deals. David offered him a leg up into the upper-middle-class world, and Jack basically self-immolated in a sea of gin and tonics in response.
Jack is determined Randall will not do the same if the opportunity presents itself. And when it finally becomes time to play the game, to ingratiate himself with his fellow council members, Randall uses everything his father taught him like a champ. Dad would be proud.