Enlightened Racism and The Cosby Show

Rachel Crooks


As one of the beloved sitcoms in United States history, scholars and viewers remember The Cosby Show as a progressive force in racial relations. For the first time in the representation of African Americans, Cosby and others created a television show that departed from previous minstrel traditions developed in the antebellum period. Both blacks and whites appreciated the humorous tales of the everyday life of the Huxtable family, but scholars Sut Jhally and Justin Lewis pioneered the argument of enlightened racism as a consequence to the show’s viewership. Society prevents history from being forgotten, making it so that even the successful and virtually colorblind portrayal of the Huxtables suggests that Americans are not divorced from a deeply racist history. My analysis of The Cosby Show illustrates the problems within the community in determining what constitutes as quality programming for black situation comedies.


Cosby Show, race relations, television, sitcom, racism, cultural criticism

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