KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s rare that a week goes by where I don’t catch an old episode of “The Cosby Show.”
I talk about the Huxtables a lot. During “The Cosby Show’s” eight-year run, it was one of the most-watched shows on television, breaking stereotypes as it introduced America to the black, educated, upper-middle class.
I used to talk about it because of the main characters’ careers. Cliff is a successful doctor, and Clair is a big-time lawyer. The couple taught their kids the importance of education and culture. To say it had a big effect on me is an understatement.
But more and more, I find myself watching the show because I appreciate the relationship between Cliff and Clair. You just don’t see black marriage on television anymore unless you’re watching old episodes of “My Wife and Kids,” “Everybody Hates Chris” or “Good Times.” Oh wait, I guess there’s “The Cleveland Show,” the lone black family on network television. And they’re animated. It’s sad.
If you turn on the TV today looking for black love, what would you see? Most of the women who look like me are money-hungry, cat-fighting groupies on reality shows like “Basketball Wives” and “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Most are in dead-end relationships. But that’s none of the black women I know.
Lately, black love can’t catch a break. Not on television or in real life. Every time I turn around, there’s a new report making it seem like black women are sad, desperate ladies who will never get married because there aren’t enough educated, well-to-do black men. It’s all inspired by that same sad statistic that never goes away: Some 70 percent of black women are unmarried.
Right now in America, black women and black relationships are at the center of a national debate — “Should Black Women Date Outside Their Race?” The Wall Street Journal has been hosting a Web conversation. And recently a book was released, “Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone.”
The author, Ralph Richard Banks, encourages black women to date outside of the race if they want a shot at marriage and successful relationships. I don’t like that. Love between any two people, of any color, is hard. Interracial marriage doesn’t guarantee a success.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a product of an interracial relationship. I believe people should date and love whomever they want, no matter their color or sex. But this book and the debates that surround it often put black relationships down. The argument makes it seem like love between a black woman and a black man is going to lead to failure. That’s baloney.
The Huxtables weren’t just fictional characters. There are real people just like them, and I’m not talking about the Obamas. Despite what the studies say, I know just as many black married couples as interracial and white ones. And it’s time television and the news outlets tell those stories.
Last week, I caught a new show, BET’s “Reed Between the Lines.”
It comes on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EDT. It stars “The Cosby Show” actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Alex Reed, a New York University professor and stay-at-home dad. (Imagine Theo Huxtable all grown up.) And Tracee Ellis Ross plays the role of Carla Reed, a successful psychologist. Not only is Ross daughter of superstar diva Diana Ross, she starred in UPN’s “Girlfriends,” one of the most successful black shows in television history.
They have three kids. Their twins are from Carla’s previous relationship and then they have a young daughter together. The first few episodes are off to a good start. The twins are in a constant comedic sibling rivalry, and what’s inspiring to me — the marriage between Carla and Alex is strong.
Tracee Ellis Ross recently told Essence magazine how important a show like this is for the image of black love.
“Whether I were on this show or not, I feel like I would want to see it on television. I want to see a man like Malcolm-Jamal Warner on television. I want to see a couple that supports and respects each other and that finds joy in each other.”