Growing up, the Winslow, Huxtable, and Banks families were the prototypical Black Families of America (to me). I think the examples set by those shows, along with a few of the other shows I’ll mention, laid the groundwork for a generation of Black Families (more to come on that later) – but they only showed part of the picture.
A Key Thing the Shows Got Right
Each family from TV I mentioned above (plus a few more) can be found in this old article from Complex Magazine. And while they may not have been considered “Black Families on television that changed the game” (as the article puts it) – I think the families on shows like Moesha, The Wayans Bros., and The Parkers each deserve their fair mention in this pantheon. Even the less talked about Roc (not misspelled – look it up) deserves a nod here. (Black-Ish doesn’t appear here because it came much later, but I’d have to think it would be here as well.)
All of these shows revealed a layer to the existence of Black Families that was appropriate for the time they were cast in. You saw people dealing with social pressures, some dealt with money-issues, some were very well-off professionals, etc. Some of the shows I mentioned show some aspects of single Black-parenting (although the “kids” in those shows were all much older – so you didn’t really see the “growing up” side of that story). The breadth these shows covered was amazing and should be applauded.
But, I still feel like above all else – the one thing they nailed was the ability to laugh through it all. These shows were ALL comedies. All of them (excluding the mention of “The Palmers on 24” in the Complex article — I probably wouldn’t have added them to my listing).
These shows captured the fact that while Black Families deal with serious issues together on a daily basis (Black People know what scene I’m about to show)…
(That scene gets me every time.)
They still have to be able to laugh through it all at the end of the day…
Black Families actually had moments like this. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked to do my Michael Jackson impersonation as a kid.
Black People deal with their share of BS that’s specific to them growing up (I’d imagine a number of cultures do in America) and Black Families are there to help disperse some of that burden as you grow. They become “learning hubs” (for lack of a better term) that teach us how to deal with some of the realities of growing up Black in America, and we pass those lessons on with each generation.
Black Families & Support
As I said in yesterday’s post, Black Families are a source of belonging for us. I don’t know what family life is like in other cultures, but for Black people – they’re a subliminal source of seeing Black Leadership firsthand throughout your life. While that may be rare corporate America and our government (11 Black Senators in history out of a total of 1,314 people who have served only in the U.S. Senate — that’s 0.84%), if you grew up in a Black home – you’re used to seeing your parents run the show.
We didn’t need to wait on Barack Obama to become U.S. President to see a Black male lead. Our fathers have been there to set that example (we realize this when we’re older). We didn’t have to wait to see Beyoncé be a queen showing what Black women could accomplish. Our moms did that for us each day (we realize this when we’re older).
Both of my parents taught me that I’ll always be their son and we’ll always be family.
Life may lead me to hard times, everyone else might abandon me, we may not talk regularly – but they’re still there for me. My family instilled those same values of “remembering our bond and being there for one another at the end of the day” in me and my brothers, and I humbly realize I’m fortunate to be able to make that claim. A lot of people don’t have the luxury of being able to say that about their parents, regardless of their race.
That moves me to my next point…
No Family Is Perfect, But…
I love my literal and figurative Black Family, but I also don’t pretend that we’re perfect. We have our share of dirty laundry that I won’t air out here – but if you research some things, you’d quickly see certain pictures painted by data (for example). And this is where everything I’ve already said kind of comes together.
Remember at the opening of this post I said that those T.V. shows “laid the groundwork for a generation of Black Families”? Watch that scene from Fresh Prince again.
Well, we know our families aren’t perfect (I repeat, NO FAMILY is perfect) – but now there is an entire generation of Black Families coming up who are trying to correct any mistakes or misfortunes of the past. Yes, there are some glaring examples that speak otherwise – but I feel like those narratives are lessening as time goes on because this new generation of parents all have the same shared aspirational stories from those shows to pull back on.
We all want a taste of being the Winslow, Huxtable, or Banks families at some point if we can achieve it.
Plus – when you combine the fact that new Black parents are likely from the most educated generation of Black People in this country’s history (I’m not kidding — look at this) with their having the most (potential) access to fair pay and other resources (historically speaking)… It only makes sense that things are going to skew a little more positive for the social ills of our family structures (when you think about it)!
I am seeing Black Families thrive. I have friends who are in very high positions of influence at their companies raising teenage kids who are vegan and can speak three different languages. I can only think of one of my Black friends who has been through a divorce already, and that’s out of the literal hundreds of new-ish Black Families and marital unions that I have in my circle. Black men that I know are sworn protectors of their families and making sure that their kids grow up knowing they are loved and full of potential to change the world. Black women are some of the strongest mothers I have ever seen on this planet. And all of the kids, rightfully so, are shining beacons of hope.
I think we’re going to be fine, and growing up in Black homes has always been a beautiful experience even if the narrative that’s been pushed may have been otherwise (it’s not always “struggly” (to quote a friend) and in need of a White savior like you see in many movies).