Rainbow Johnson recounts her experience growing up in a mixed-race family in the ‘80s and the constant dilemmas they had to face over whether to assimilate or stay true to themselves.
Rainbow Johnson’s parents decide to move from a hippie commune to the suburbs to better provide for their family. As her parents struggle with the challenges of their new life, Bow and her siblings navigate a mainstream school in which they’re perceived as neither black nor white.
For Rainbow and Alicia, fitting in at school and standing out at work are hard enough; but with the added pressure from stay-at-home-dad Paul to make the world a little better every day, it might just be impossible.
After a teacher tells Rainbow to make sure her hair is “neat” for picture day, she becomes self-conscious and begins a complicated relationship with her hair. Meanwhile, Johan and Santamonica struggle with their own hair identity.
When Rainbow is tasked with a school assignment that requires her to trace her roots, she learns that history is more complicated for her mom’s side of the family than it is for her dad’s. Meanwhile, Johan struggles to balance his new love of ice hockey with what his friends think is cool.
It’s time for the Johnson kids’ first school dance, but before Bow can dance the night away, she’ll have to consider the social impact of her date choice. Johan finds an outfit for the dance and discovers his love of fashion, while Santamonica spends some time with Harrison.
The popular girls at school ask Rainbow to join their group Halloween costume as Tootie from “The Facts of Life.” She thinks this is finally her opportunity to fit in, but Denise views the situation differently. Meanwhile, Alicia doesn’t want the kids to go trick-or-treating after Harrison and his colleagues tell her about all the dangerous things that can happen.
The kids are excited to learn more about their grandad after Harrison invites the crew to family day at his country club. Although Paul thinks it’s a bad idea, he is eventually overruled. Meanwhile, Alicia attempts to fit in at the country club but ends up fighting with Denise about keeping it real.
Rainbow’s passion for science deflates when her peers convince her that science isn’t cool. During Career Day, Rainbow code-switches and pursues journalism in order to fit in, only to find that the local news anchor attending the fair has also been hiding a part of herself. Meanwhile, Harrison works to mold a testimony from Denise who struggles to be anyone but herself, and Santamonica tries to steal the spotlight back after Johan suffers an injury.
Paul struggles when Rainbow and Santamonica want to participate in a beauty pageant. Meanwhile, Johan gets teased for crying after a martial arts tournament, and Alicia and Harrison struggle with the best way for him to fight back.
Alicia and Paul strive to maintain their “Winter Solstice” traditions from the commune, but their parents want to have a more traditional Christmas with the kids. Meanwhile, Alicia’s dad, Lynwood, competes with Harrison to be the kids’ favorite Grandad.
In the wake of the Challenger tragedy, Rainbow and her family handle their grief in different ways. Denise realizes that life is too short, so she vows to right all the wrongs she’s done in her life (and she’s done a lot of bad).
Rainbow wants to battle stereotypes at school after she joins the track team and feels like her friends only see her skin color. Meanwhile, Alicia and Paul battle stereotypes of their own, and Santamonica tries to be cool enough to hang out with Rainbow’s friends.
It’s the first-ever nationally recognized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Paul is speaking at the school assembly about his personal experiences with him. Johan and Santamonica think Paul is going to embarrass them; and being ashamed of her father had never occurred to Rainbow, so they decide to ditch. Meanwhile, Alicia thought she had convinced Harrison to take pro bono civil rights cases on MLK Day to honor him, but he plans to go golfing instead, so Denise steps in to help.
Paul is shocked to hear from his estranged mother who wants to visit for Rainbow’s 13th birthday and soon learns more about why she abandoned him. Meanwhile, Rainbow sees turning 13 as a huge turning point in her life and wants a big birthday party, but Alicia wants to celebrate all the things Rainbow missed out on over the years while on the commune.
Rainbow is excited to go on her first real date with Bryce for Valentine’s Day, but when her friends weigh in on the rules and expectations, she becomes very nervous. Alicia is wary to let Rainbow start dating and invites Bryce’s parents over for dinner to cross-examine them; and Paul gets into a fight with Bryce’s dad over politics.
Alicia gets a bonus after winning a big case and wants to buy a nice car, but having been raised on the “fifty-cent principal,” Denise wants her to buy two cars in lesser condition so she can have one. Meanwhile, Paul tries to teach Rainbow, Johan and Santamonica about the value of money.
The Johnsons welcome an African American family that has just moved into their mostly white neighborhood. Santamonica doesn’t get along with the new neighbor’s daughter, until she gives Santamonica attitude. Meanwhile, Rainbow is excited to celebrate her one-month anniversary with Bryce, but he tells her some devastating news.
Rainbow clashes with her parents over her love for rap music. Plus, Harrison steps in to take Denise to a charity benefit and helps her realize she deserves better men in her love life.
Rainbow’s friend Rebecca gets mono (“the kissing disease”), and after helping her out, she becomes interested in the medical field. Alicia fibs to Paul about getting a flu shot, and when Denise gets sick, their distrust of the medical community comes to light. Meanwhile, Johan and Santamonica go to live with Harrison while Denise is sick and start to enjoy his lavish lifestyle.
Alicia and Paul try to deflect Johan’s interest in going to cop camp and one day becoming a police officer. Meanwhile, Rainbow gets her first role as a school safety patrol and quickly realizes that with great power comes great responsibility.
After learning that scientists predict the ozone layer will be depleted in 20 years, Rainbow panics and tries to implement Earth Day at school to influence some change. To her surprise, she is met with resistance, forcing her to takes matters into her own hands to fight for the cause.
The kids meet a homeless man in their neighborhood, and Paul and Alicia try to have an honest conversation with them about the homelessness crisis. Paul and Rainbow try to help by starting a soup kitchen at Rainbow’s school. Meanwhile, Denise has a new boyfriend and Alicia doesn’t think they’re a match.
Alicia and Paul are both offered jobs to work on Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign, but Alicia’s law firm makes her an enticing offer to stay. Rainbow struggles to define her racial identity as “mixed” when she’s given a form to answer “black” or “white.”