There’s no denying that television could use some diversifying when it comes to the family units portrayed on screen and in a recent interview with HuffPost Live, a member of one of TV’s newest Black families, Black-ish star Yara Shahidi, said she’d love to see the same. Not only because it would provide a better representation of the country, but because there’s so much room to cover cultural issues that aren’t being tapped into in other mainstream shows.
"It's pretty amazing to have the backing of ABC to cover what we want to cover without being censored in any way," Shahidi said.
The 15-year-old actress said she’s turned down roles that didn’t truly embody the message she wanted to share with viewers.
"Before Black-ish, I got offered a couple roles that were just — you know, they just didn't portray black people very well, teenagers very well, me very well [or] anything like that, so I ended up turning them down," she said. "But Black-ish was perfect and timely."
Black-ish, a comedy about an upper-middle-class African-American family trying to find a balance between cultural assimilation and holding on to their roots, premiered shortly after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, leading to riots and civil unrest across the country.
"It was kind of what America needed at the time," she said about the show’s premiere. Shahidi added that strides have been made in presenting positive Black role models in entertainment, but there’s still room for improvement and she hopes that shows that lean on stereotypes surrounding minorities will soon be a thing of the past.
"It's great that there are actors of color that are working and doing a brilliant job, but it's still important to have a positive image or role model,” Shahidi said.
Meanwhile, as rape allegations against Bill Cosby continue to come to light, Ebony has used a shattered photograph of the Huxtables from The Cosby Show as the cover for its November issue. While the magazine wanted to separate the iconic father figure from the man currently battling the accusations, one member of the beloved television family, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, has said the image only served to perpetuate stereotypes about Black families.
"[The cover is] contributing to the stereotypical image that society has of the broken black family and the shattered black family," Warner said. "And to take something that ... for 20 [or] 30 years has been what we have held up as the black family that we all want to aspire to, in terms of the love that we don't see when we see black families in the media — to take that image and to shatter it, it's disappointing to a lot of us."
Do you agree with Warner? Read our commentary on Ebony's cover. And what do you think of the current Black family shows on television?
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(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards)