'Cosby Show' challenged black stereotypes
As we celebrate the election of this country’s first African-American president, your readers and the creative community should take note of the fact that two people in your industry — Marcy Carsey and Tommy Werner — made a huge contribution more than two decades ago to making Obama’s election possible. By stubbornly refusing in the early 1980s to give up their vision of a Cosby as a professional African-American role model and not the stereotypical black standup Vegas comedian that cautious network officials preferred, these two fiercely independent producers contributed mightily to the colorblind attitudes of many of today’s middle-aged and younger voters who grew up on “The Cosby Show.”
Obama just did not happen overnight. His ability to be elected president started back on July 26, 1948, when Harry Truman, this country’s pioneering civil rights president, did the unthinkable and integrated not just the vast American military but the entire federal workforce. While Truman forced blacks and whites to work, eat and sleep alongside each other at Army camps and on Navy battleships, Marcy and Tom showed their viewers how an ordinary black family could live harmoniously with their white neighbors in a world where they all dealt with the same family issues. They shattered another taboo — all white neighborhoods were still pervasive 25 years ago.
I hope you will take editorial note of the great contribution made by the Cosby team of independent producers who could have sold out and agreed initially to a noncontroversial Cosby and not the beloved Doctor Huxtable who became a friend and weekly visitor in millions and millions of U.S. homes.
Gardner is the author of the book “Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks”