The time was 1984, a new TV show debuted with comedian Bill Cosby playing a doctor father and Phylicia Rashad playing his lawyer wife. They had four adorable daughters and a funny son. The show would go on to be the most popular show of the 80’s, bringing the first image of a successful middle class black family to households all over America, black and white alike.
White people saw images of African Americans as successful, articulate, educated hardworking, family oriented people for the first time. Cliff seemed the humor filled doctor who despite his hard hours at the job, always found time for the kids. Clair was educated, funny and dedicated too, every part his equal. She, despite her hard work, always found time to make sure the kids did well and school and were respectful of themselves and others. The Huxtables were TV’s first family.
25 years later America has a new black first family, the Obamas. Like the Huxtables, both parents are educated, successful people. Like Clair, both Michelle and Barack have law degrees from a prestigious universities and are equals in their careers and relationship. They are both very hardworking, but always have time to spend with their adorable daughters.
Are the Obamas the news Huxtables? It seemed so last night at Obams victory speech and when he voted with his dughters. When Obama was talking with his adorable daughter Sasha, it couldn’t help but remind me of Cliff and Rudy Huxtable.
The people who grew up watching the Cosby Show, which ran from 1984 to 1992 are now way past voting age. The millions of other people who watched it in re-runs are past it or approaching it. These people have come to know and love a black family like it was their own. They came to know a black family that could have competent, successful, funny charming parents and adorable children. If we could trust Cliff to give birth to our babies who we love, maybe we could trust Barack to take care of our country.
Just like Jackie Robinson, Bill Cosby has paved the way for America to accept an African American in their household, and even the White House. The Huxtables not only humanized African American families and showcased professional African Americans, but it allowed Americans of all backgrounds to admire a black family.
The Huxtable factor may have been one of the primary effects that countered the Bradley effect. In 1982 when Bradley ran for governor, the images of African Americans in the media were mostly criminals, raunchy comedians, and blacksploitation movie stars. TV shows like Good Times and the Jeffersons showed Africans Americans as hard working and funny but without any professional polish.
The Huxtables may not have totally changed Americans perceptions of African Americans, but it gave them an idea of what African Americans could be if they worked hard and kept values, the qualities that led to the Obamas being the first family.
Watch Obama Interact With His Daughters at the DNC
Watch the Cosby Show
Watch the Obamas on Access Hollywood
Watch the Obama Family on Access Hollywood