In case you have never seen an episode of The Cosby Show, it was a popular 1980’s sitcom about the Huxtable’s, an African American family living in New York. The father, played by Bill Cosby, was a doctor in the show and his wife was a lawyer. They had five children, some of which who grew up to attend college and experience success of their own.
In a course I took a couple of years ago, we discussed the controversy over The Cosby Show in that some people felt that it portrayed an unrealistic image of African American families. At first glance, it seems like a great thing to show that two charming African Americans are just as capable as anyone else to succeed enough in their professions to raise their children in a large home and eventually send them to college. However, some believed that this image creates a false sense that blacks have finally gained their equality and can live out the American dream just as easily as any other racial group. Because this was one of the most popular shows of its time, it showed all of America that blacks can be financially stable, they can move into affluent neighborhoods without a problem, they can pay for adequate education, and they don't need the help of government aid or affirmative action to get ahead. I found it interesting that a show that tries to take away negative black stereotypes could actually be detrimental to the progress of African Americans as a whole.
Although I can see the show as possibly sending a false message that the African American struggle for equality is over, I still feel that it is more beneficial than it is harmful. Because the show appealed to black audiences and was mostly watched by black people, the Huxtable family could serve as an inspiration to black families who haven’t been so successful. The images of successful black students in the show could inspire young African Americans to actually consider going to college, law school, and medical school. The success of the show also created opportunities for more African American sitcoms to be created such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, thus creating jobs for more black actors. Unfortunately, it also paved the way for Tyler Perry’s sitcoms to exist, but that’s a different discussion.