Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Cosby Show raised my kids: will Blackish do the same?

I am the parent of three amazing children.  I know, all parents make that claim.  Parents are quick to boast about their babies even when one is enduring a long term stay at a prison far away.  We love them, for better and for perceived worst, and will fight other parents to prove who did the best to raise their progenies.

With that being said, I will put King (your royal highness), Lenise (sweet baby) and Krista (sugar baby) in the ring with anybody’s kids.  I know, it sounds pathetic to assert that raising children is a competition.  Well, it is in the mind of many.  If you don’t believe me, spend some time watching parents lose their minds while their children participate in the game of your choice.

Lord Jesus.

My reveling in the virtues of my above average children comes with an admission. I didn’t parent them on my own.  Before slapping me with the proverbial dah (there was a mama helping you with that) it’s critical that I give credit for the couple that co-parented my kids.  I’m not alone.  A bunch of us received significant help from the parents who came into our homes once a week.

So, I’m thanking publicly, for the first time, Claire and Heathcliff Huxtable for teaching lessons that made it easier for me to parent.  Many joke that “Cliff” and Claire were their TV parents.  It’s true.  The Cosby Show helped us raise a generation of children who would have been clueless devoid of their guidance. 

Something has been missing since the Cosby Show left that once a week spot on NBC from September 20, 1984 until April 30, 1992.  Today’s parents don’t have that type of help to tell it like it tis. 

Things have become more complicated since 1992.  Black life in America is more convoluted than before.  Cliff and Claire were concerned with life among middle and upper middle class Americans.  The American Dream seemed accessible to all Americans, and the Huxtable’s helped transform images of blackness for those fixated on the stereotypes of inner city existence. 

As many complained the show wasn’t keeping it real; black couples showed up to validate the thesis of the show.  Not all black people live in the hood.

Other sitcoms have attempted to replicate The Cosby Show.  Some come close, but the issues are different.

Today’s black parents are concerned about things lost in their quest to obtain the American Dream.  There’s talk about the consequences of abandoning the best of black culture, during the journey to move on up to the East Side.  Weezy and George Jefferson dealt with that from 1975-1982. 

Black life in America began to mimic the images on television.  Thank God for that.

What follows Weezy, George, Cliff and Claire exhibiting the better side of black life in America? What happens to the generation raised in the finery of things on the other side of the tracks?

They become spoiled, indifferent, pampered brats.  Is that the lesson for this generation of parents?

That’s the context of a Blackish, a new sitcom airing on ABC this fall.  Anthony Anderson, Andre, is the patriarch of the Johnson family.   His wife Rainbow is played by Tracee Ellis Ross, formerly of Girlfriends. Lawrence Fishburne, who produces the show with Anderson, is Pops (Andre’s father).

It’s a cast of seasoned pros with four kids.  The trailer presents a sitcom with the potential of bringing more laughs than Modern Family.  More than the giggles, ROFL and LMFAO, the show raises an issue encountered by black parents who move their children to affluent, mostly-white neighborhoods.  Assimilation comes with a price.

How do you remain rooted in black culture?

Black parents understand the struggle.  In the South, black parents push their children to enroll in a Historically College or Universities (HBCU) to get a feel for the wonders of black culture.  Yes, something is lost when all things white take precedent over the pros of black culture. 

What happens when your kids fail to learn about the wonderful contributions of black people?  Is it possible that they will grow up celebrating all things white while vilifying all things black?

Say it can’t be so, but the danger of assimilation is the forfeiture of a wonderful culture.

I’m not saying Backish is this generations Cosby Show.  Correction. I’m saying it has the potential of teaching similar lessons related to black life in America. It may help pave the way for a broader conversation regarding the burden of assimilation. 

I’m looking forward to ROFL.  Even more, I’m excited about the conversations on Facebook after each broadcast.

Did I mention that my children assimilated while embracing the best of black culture?  I told you they’re the best.

Thanks Uncle Bill and Aunt Claire.

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