I have been truly excited about the amount of black success we are watching in the public eye. Even with our first black president on his way out of office, black pride seems to be on the rise. If you take a look at current TV, the success of shows like This is Us, Queen Sugar, Atlanta and Insecure, it seems apparent that black people and our art are becoming more welcomed in mainstream media.
Black art has always been regarded as edgy, or unique and cool. For decades we have seen the mainstream pick up aspects of black art and claim them, simply because they enjoyed them. For some that has been a compliment, but for others it has been felt to be more of a diss or lack of giving black people our proper accolades. In any case, black art and culture was seen, but black people were not.
If you grew up in the 1990’s like I did, you probably watched shows like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Mattters, and even the Cosby Show. As I grew up a little, I watched Martin, and Living Single and a slew of other favorite shows with black main characters in them.
Recently, I started thinking about what shows the kids of the 2000’s watched. Were there any popular shows that put black people in the spotlight? I am sure I could come up with a few if I thought about it really hard, but what happened during the 2000’s that made black art less marketable? Or perhaps it was simply a failure of black writers and TV show creators to present black characters? Or maybe there just weren’t many black writer’s or creators at all?
I remember watching Girlfriends and The Parkers *side eye* and even vaguely remember the show One on One, but two out of the three seemingly didn’t last very long. What happened next could be characterized as a drought of black culture in the mainstream.
Thinking through the years, starting at 2005, not a single scripted show with more than a couple black characters comes to mind until about 2010. Scandal, then How to Get Away with Murder, then Empire *side eye*, and in the last few years we got Greenleaf and Blackish. This year we also got Queen Sugar, Insecure, Atlanta and This is Us. This is Us may only have a few black characters, but I like it for diversity because of how real it is and how the perspective of blackness is shaken up a bit.
With all of this blackness gracing the screens of our TVs each week, I’m starting to wonder, where did the sudden inspiration and willingness come from? Don’t get me wrong I am thrilled and absorbing as much black TV as I can while I can still get it, but I can’t help but wonder if it is here to stay, or if it’ll be a thing of the past in 5 or 6 years.
You know what else makes these new favorites interesting, is the fact that we are now telling new black stories that hadn’t been told very much in the past. We are watching black dramas and not just comedies. We are watching singles and not just families. We have the chance to watch the dysfunction within black families that exists in many families. We are seeing poised, educated, quirky and deep characters that represent the variety of blackness that exists.
Blackness has never meant just one thing, and for the first time I believe we are beginning to see ourselves represented in all of the ways that we actually are. Black people are so many things and I’m looking forward to seeing more characters that look like me and also live their lives like me. There are so many stories to be told and I hope the ones we are hearing now aren’t the last of their kind.