The Cosby Show: The View from the Black Middle Class Source:

The Cosby Show: The View from the Black Middle Class
Author(s): Leslie B. Inniss and Joe R. Feagin
Source: Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 25, No. 6 (Jul., 1995), pp. 692-711
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2784760 .
Accessed: 17/01/2011 16:54
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless
you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you
may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.
Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at .
http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=sage. .
Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed
page of such transmission.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]
Sage Publications, Inc. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of Black
Studies.
http://www.jstor.org
THE COSBYSHOW
The ViewFromtheBlackMiddleClass
LESLIE B. INNISS
FloridaStateUniversity
JOER. FEAGIN
University
ofFlorida
Now that we have seen the finalApril30, 1992, episode the
televisionseriesThe CosbyShow,"AndSo We Commence,"we
can examinethe social and historicalimpacton its audiences.
in themass mediahave assertedthatone of the
Commentators
racerelashow'sgreatest
consequenceswas itshelpin improving
universalvaluesthatbothWhitesand Blacks
tionsby projecting
situation
couldidentify
comedyforwith,usingthetried-and-true
1985;
1986;Norment,
mat(Ehrenstein,
1988;Gray,1989;Johnson,
mirrors
societyandarticuStevens,1987).Believingthattelevision
of thisperspective
pointto theoverlatesitsvalues,proponents
oftheshowamongWhiteviewersas wellas
whelming
popularity
byWhiteanalystsand the
itsalmostentirely
positiveassessment
ratedandhas
Whitemedia.Formanyseasons,theshowwashighly
withreviving
thegenre
beencredited,
amongotherconsequences,
of thesitcomand savingtheailingNBC network
(Curry,1986;
Frank& Zweig,1988;Poussaint,1988;Taylor,1989).
have suggestedthat,to the
However,a fewrecentresearchers
has setbackracerelations
because
theshow'spopularity
contrary,
failstotakeintoaccountthecontext
itsviewofBlackassimilation
oftheworldoutsideofthefourwalls oftheHuxtablehousehold
(Teachout,1986) and becauseit allowsWhitesto excuseinstitutoracialinequalandtobecomedesensitized
tionaldiscrimination
thatifBlackpeoplefail,
ity(Gates,1992).Theydo thisbyasserting
toblamebecauseanyWhitepersoncan
theyonlyhavethemselves
affluent
Blackfamilyon TheCosbyShow
pointoutthesuccessful,
JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES, Vol.25 No. 6, July1995 692-711
Inc.
()0 1995 Sage Publications,
692
Inniss,Feagin/MIDDLE-CLASS VIEW OF COSBY 693
actionis nolongerneeded
theirbeliefsthataffirmative
andconfirm
as Whites(Gates,
becauseBlacksnowenjoythesameopportunities
1992).
Racism(1992),LewisandJhally
In a recentbook,Enlightened
onWhitefocusgroupsthatwatchedTheCosbyShowas part
report
inWhite
project.Theyfounda contradiction
oftherecentresearch
responsesto theshow.On theone hand,theshowwas takenby
thatanyonecanmakeitintheUnitedStatesand
Whitesas proving
aboutdiscriminathatBlackAmericansshouldstopcomplaining
the
view
thattheCosbys
articulated
Whites
the
tion.On theother,
Thiscontradiction
is rationwerenotlikemostBlackAmericans.
andlazinessofother
alizedbytheWhitesinthestudybythefailure
Blacks."TheHuxtablesprovedthatblackpeoplecan succeed;yet
ofblackpeopleingeneral
inso doingtheyalsoprovetheinferiority
withwhites,failed)"(Lewis & Jhally,
(who have,in comparison
1992,p. 95).
withsome
LewisandJhally
(1992,pp. 113-117)alsodealbriefly
other
shows
and
The
Show
comedy
reactions
to
Black
Cosby
Black comedians.Theyused a generalgroupof mixedstarring
In thedata
Massachusetts.
in Springfield,
statusBlackAmericans
thatfollow,we go beyondtheirbriefanalysisto examinethe
depth.Andwe examinethe
toTheCosbyShowingreater
reactions
BlackAmericans
ofmiddle-class
anduppermiddle-class
reactions
whoseclasspositionis closetothatoftheHuxtablesin TheCosby
BlackAmerianduppermiddle-class
Show.How do middle-class
cans view theshow?Is theirreactionpositive?Do middle-class
and
BlacksacceptTheCosbyShowversionofBlack assimilation
color-blind
where
African
the
society
intoAmerica:
integration
AsianAmericans,
andHispanic
Americans,
EuropeanAmericans,
anymention
as humanbeingswithout
Americans
can all interact
Can this
beingproblematic?
oforevena hintofracialdifferences
relate
a
Black
middle-class
to
lifestyle
audience
Blackmiddle-class
northelawyer-mother
norany
thedoctor-father
in whichneither
racismordiscrimination
everexperience
oftheschool-age
children
lives?
intheireveryday
BlacksperceiveTheCosbyShowin a more
Or do middle-class
negativemanner?Do theybelievethattheshowdepictsa false
694
JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JULY 1995
image of assimilationand helps to fosterthe backlashagainst
positiveortotally
thantotally
affirmative
action?Or,perhapsrather
amongmiddlethereis moreofanambivalence
negativereactions,
class Blacks.Perhapstheyfeelthatitis goodtosee anyBlackson
whoareshownina positivelightinsteadofas theusual
television
the"Sambo syndrome"
and maidsreflecting
pimps,prostitutes,
suggestthatTheCosby
(Fife,1974).On theotherhand,theymight
inthesameveinas the
positiveportrayal
Showis an exceptionally
toa popular,
motion
picture
well-made
"Shaftsyndrome"
(referring
fromthe 1970switha Black cast).As such,theCosbyportrayal
as thepreviously
excessively
negativeones,
wouldbe as distorting
in thesensethatBlacks are stillbeingshownin an exaggerated
humanbeings,somegood,
rather
thanas ordinary,
everyday
fashion
somebad,withothersall alongthegood-badspectrum.
Given the pervasiveimpactof the mass media,particularly
television(Asante,1976; Case & Greeley,1990; Goodlet,1974;
1986),
Holz & Wright,
1979;Leckenby& Surlin,1976;Stroman,
and especiallythe factthatBlacks watchmoretelevisionthan
init(Bales, 1986;Comstock&
Whitesandplacemoreconfidence
Cobbey,1979; Kassarjian,1973; Stroman& Becker,1978),it is
toexaminethewayinwhichBlackshavebeenportrayed.
important
thattheportrayal
ofBlacksin
hasdocumented
Televisionresearch
been
and
mass
mediums
has
other
inadequate
always
thatand
Black Americansas
and generallyhas portrayed
stereotypical
comediccharacters
1988;Fife,1974;Gates,1992;O'Kelly
(Carter,
hasshown
research
& Bloomquist,
1976;Seggar,1977).Moreover,
inall positionsin
theextenttowhichBlacksareunderrepresented
underscore
theneedfor
Thesedatapatterns
thetelevision
industry.
of Black middle-classresponsesto The
a carefulexamination
CosbyShow.
THE DEBATE OVER THE COSBY SHOW
20, 1984.The TV public
TheCosbyShowbeganon September
married
an obstetrician
toDr.Heathcliff
was introduced
Huxtable,
toanattorney,
playedbyPhyliciaRashad.Thecoupleandtheirfive
Inniss,Feagin/MIDDLE-CLASS VIEW OF COSBY 695
childrenlivedin a New YorkCitybrownstone
and wereclearly
"Blackmiddleclass" at a timewhenthatgroupwas beginning
to
be recognizedin themassmedia.Indeed,theywereuppermiddle
class.The curtain-closing
show,"AndSo We Commence"was on
April30, 1992,andhadtheextendedHuxtablefamilyprepareto
celebratethe onlyson's graduation
fromNew YorkUniversity.
Duringits8-year,198-episode
run,TheCosbyShowwas laudedas
a majormilestonein popularentertainment:
the firstall-Black
program
thatavoidedracialstereotyping.
Recordsrevealthatthe
showwas thetop-rated
showof the1980sandthemost-watched
sitcomintelevision
Bill Cosby,oneoftheshow'screators,
history.
to TV to save viewersfroma "vastwastesaid he was returning
theshowin
land."He wenton to explainhisreasonsforcreating
withRobertJohnson(1992, p. 57), editorof Jet
an interview
thathe was tiredof whathe was
magazine.CosbytoldJohnson
ofthecarchases,thehookerswiththe
seeingon television-tired
Black pimps.Cosbybelievedthathe could send vitalmessages
alongwiththepositiveimagesofa Blackfamily:Childrenarethe
sameall over(Johnson,
1986,p. 29).
Bill Cosbyhas responded
to mostcriticisms
lodgedagainsthis
showduringits8-yearrun.Forexample,in answertocriticswho
racialissues,Cosby'sresponse
urgedhimtodealwithmorecritical
write
he
would
not
critics
hisshowandwouldnotallow
was that
let
neoliberalsto affecttheimagethattheCosbycast projectsas a
family(Johnson,1992, p. 60). Further,
Cosby assertsthatthis
is unfairandholdshimup toa different
criticism
standard
because
othersituation
comediesarenotexpectedtoaddresspressing
social
such
as
racism:
He
stated
that
such
othershows,
as Three's
problems
arenotaskedtodealwithracism.Moreover,
hefeelsthat
Company,
the showhas addressedsome toughsocial issues.For example,
hasaddressedsexismas an
Cosbystatedthattheshowconsistently
in
a
creative
humorous
issue,showing
and
wayhow it shouldbe
resistedanddebunked;at thesametime,theshowconfronted
the
issueofmachismoandpromoted
a richerunderstanding
offatherhood and a fullermeaningof manhood(Dyson, 1989, p. 28).
Additionally,whetherthroughCosby's wearingof collegiate
sweatshirts
or in theformof his spin-off
A Different
program,
696
OF BLACKSTUDIES/JULY1995
JOURNAL
sentoutmessagesabouttheimporWorld,theshowconsistently
tanceofBlackacademicinstitutions
andtheimportance
ofBlacks
theseinstitutions.
supporting
Thisreflects
Cosby'sdeep commitmentto Black colleges survivingas an Americaninstitution
(Cheers,1987,p. 28).
Othercriticisms
lodgedagainsttheshowwerethatit was not
"Black" enoughbecause the familylife beingportrayed
is not
realisticand thattheshowminimizes
Black issuesbecauseitis a
thana dramatic
series.Inanswertocriticswhoassert
comedyrather
is notrealistic
thatthefamily
beingportrayed
enough,Cosbysaid,
"I am notan experton blackness"(Stevens,1987,p. 80) andthat
theshowis aboutparentslovingtheirchildrenand givingthem
It is aboutpeoplerespecting
each other(Johnson,
understanding.
He
to
1992,p. 60).
goeson proclaimthatalthough
theshowuses a
newgimmick
ofcentering
on theparents
rather
thanthechildren,
withoutthechildrenin thecast,theshowjust wouldnot work
(Davidson,1986,p. 32). In supportof theshow,one writerhas
ofstereotyping
arguedthata usefulaspectofCosby'sdismantling
is thatitpermits
Americato viewBlacksas
andracialmythology
humanbeings,andithas shownthatmanyconcernshumanbeings
race(Dyson,1989,p. 29). AlvinPoussaint(1988,
havetranscend
andtheshow'spsychological
consulp. 72), a Harvardpsychiatrist
the
to
old
asserts
that
Huxtables
and
tant,
helped dispel stereotypes
of
tomovetheshow'saudiencetowarda morerealisticperception
ontelevision
ina
Blacks.LikeWhites,Blacksshouldbe portrayed
ofrolesandcultural
fullspectrum
stylesandsuchan arrayofstyles
shouldnotbe challenged.Moreover,accordingto Poussaint,the
in theirspeech,
comes through
Black cultureof the characters
andnuances;Blackmusic,art,anddancearefrequently
intonations,
areoften
mentioned
displayedandBlackbooksandauthors
(p. 74).
in
to
who
that
the
those
show
is a
Finally, response
complain
thanbeingmoredramatic,
thateach
comedyrather
Cosbymaintains
eventhoughtheshow'sformat
is a
episodeeducatesand informs
He statesthattheshowsarefunny,
situation
comedythatentertains.
witha caring,loving,feelingstory
line,andthattheaudiencesitting
inthecharacters
themselves
athomewillrecognize
(Johnson,
1986,
oneauthoradmonishes
Blackstostoplookingto
p. 30). Moreover,
Inniss,Feagin/MIDDLE-CLASS VIEW OF COSBY 697
TV forsocial liberation
because"therevolution
willnotbe televised"(Gates,1992,p. 317).
OUR RESEARCHSTUDY
To examinetheBlackmiddle-class
toTheCosbyShow,
response
we drawprimarily
on 100 in-depth
interviews
froma largerstudy
in 16citiesacrosstheUnited
of210 middle-class
BlackAmericans
States.Theinterviewing
was donein 1988-1990;Blackinterviewerswereused.We beganwithrespondents
knownas members
of
theBlackmiddleclasstoknowledgeable
inkeycities.
consultants
fromthesemultiple
Snowballsampling
starting
pointswasusedto
maximizediversity.
The questionsin theresearchinstrument
wereprimarily
deonthegeneralsituations
ofthe
signedtoelicitdetailedinformation
andon thebarriers
encountered
andmanagedin emrespondents
andhousing.The specificquestionused for
ployment,
education,
ofBlacksinthemedia.There
thisstudyaskedabouttheportrayal
wereno specificquestionsaboutTheCosbyShow;thediscussion
in response
television
was volunteered
of thatparticular
program
ofBlackAmeritothegeneralquestionaboutthemedia'sportrayal
cans. These volunteered
of this
responsessignaltheimportance
show.Although
we report
belowmainlyontheresponses
ofthe100
whodetailedspecificreactions
to TheCosbyShow,in
respondents
theBlack middle-class
interpreting
responseto The CosbyShow
we also draw on some discussionsin a largersampleof 117
interviews
inwhichTheCosbyShowwas mentioned.
Middleclasswasdefined
a white-collar
broadlyas thoseholding
thoseinprofessional,
and
job (including
managerial, clericaljobs),
forwhite-collar
college students
preparing
jobs, and ownersof
successfulbusinesses.This definition
is consistent
withrecent
analysesoftheBlackmiddleclass(Landry,1987).The subsample
of100middle-class
Blacksreporting
toTheCosbyShow
a response
of thedemographic
is fairlyrepresentative
characteristics
of the
isbroadly
distribution
largersample.Thesubsample's
occupational
similarto the largersampleand includesuniversity
professors,
698
JOURNAL
OF BLACKSTUDIES/JULY1995
collegeadministrators,
elementary
andsecondary
teachers,
physicians,attorneys,
dentists,
entrepreneurs,
businessmanagersand
executives,
doctoralstudents,
andthreeretirees.
Thereareroughly
equal numbers
ofmales(48) andfemales(52). The subsamplehas
thantheage of35,63% between35 and50,and 14%
23% younger
olderthantheage of50. All therespondents
haveat leasta high
schooldiploma,and96% havesomecollege,including
46% with
advanceddegrees.Themodalincomelevelis $56,000ormore,with
this income.Seventeenpercentreportincomes
51% reporting
between$36,000 and $55,000; 27% have incomesless than
to disclosetheirincomelevels.
$35,000;andfiverefused
VIEWING THE SHOW AS UNREALISTIC
The Black middle-classresponsesto The CosbyShow were
bothnegativeandpositiveaspects.Eventhe
ambivalent,
reflecting
wereoftenmixedwitha positivepreface,
such
negativecomments
as "I reallylikeTheCosbyShow,but..." or"I'm happytosee some
positiveimagesofBlackson TV,but.. ." In manyoftheanswers,
witha recognition
ofboththe
thereclearlyis a dialecticaltension,
For example,
positiveand thenegativefeaturesof theprogram.
manynegativeresponsescenteredon the shownotprovidinga
or of a Black middle-class
of a Black family,
realisticportrayal
Yetmanyalso feltthattheshowaccurately
reflected
their
family.
andthatoftheirfriends.
ownlifestyle
of The Cosby
one commoncriticism
Amongourrespondents,
Show was its lack of realism.As thefollowingset of negative
theproblemlies withthestereotypical
nature
responsesillustrate,
of an uppermiddle-classBlack familythatneverexperiences
One respondent
commented
problems,
especiallyracialproblems.
thisway:"AndthenTheCosbyShow,well,
on thelackoftragedy
forme,it'sjusttoogood.Theyused
theyjustgottoo love-happy
to haverealproblemsthattheywerefacedwith,andnow,what's
theproblem?Someonewearssomeoneelse's dress,whatis that?"
The absenceofserioustragedy
likethatfacedbyBlackAmericans intherealworldcausedmanytospeakofthelackofrealism
Inniss,
Feagin
VIEWOF COSBY 699
/MIDDLE-CLASS
in theprogram:
"Cosbyis notreal.One ofthethingsthatdisturbs
meisthishouseis alwaysimmaculate,
there'snomaid,themother's
whoworksall day,thefather's
an attorney
a doctorwhoworksall
areoutofthehouseallday.Whodoesthelaundry?
day,thechildren
Whocleansup thehouse?Whoprepares
themeals?You see them
cook a specialty
dishfromtimetotime,that'snotforreal."
Oneaspectoftheunreality
is thecastingofthefather
andmother
as uppermiddle-class
professionals.
One middle-class
respondent
focusedon thefamilycontext,
the
likelihood
including
ofdoctorlawyerheadsofhousehold:"My issuewithCosbyis, howrealis
it? I mean,how manyBlack familiesdo you know wherethe
father'sa doctorand themother'sa lawyer,and all thekidsare
wellbehaved,andtheyall deal ata psychological
wonderfully
and
Andso whileI personally
emotional
levelofunderstanding?
love
TheCosbyShow,I do questionhowrealitis."
ofthedoctor-lawyer
Thisquestioning
teamcameup a number
of timesand was connectedto otherissues.Anotherrespondent
totheracialtrials:"I think
ifchildren,
if
notedthelackofattention
people,if anybodylookedat The CosbyShow,they'dthinkthat
in theBlack community
has arrivedlikethat,and it's
everybody
thattheyportray
a doctorand
justnottrue.I thinkit's wonderful
andtheyliveina brownstone
ona regular
lawyertogether
working,
andtheyhavechildren
and everybody's
street,
hunky-dory.
They
neverportray
thetrialsand tribulations
thatfamilieshave. Or,if
themina humorous
theydo portray
them,theyportray
light.ButI
could
be
more
realistic."
thinkthatit
Another
wonderedaboutthestereotyped
character
respondent
likeHuxtables,
whodo notgrapplewithbarriers
ofa Blackfamily
"I thinkhe's a doctorandshe's a lawyer,so I
likediscrimination:
Andit'sjust stereotyped.
thinkit's an uppermiddle-class
family.
Nothinglikethatgoes on in thefamilylifeeveryday.No family
liferunssmoothlikethat.You know,whynotportray
a familylife
ifyou'regoingtouseBlacks,andmakeitshow
storyontelevision
thehardtimesthatBlacks do runinto?Whygive it like it's,all
peachesandcreamwhenit'snot?"
RatherthanviewingtheHuxtablesas rolemodels,one father
thedifficulty
ofexplaining
tohischildren
lamented
whytheydon't
700
OF BLACKSTUDIES/JULY1995
JOURNAL
liveliketheCosbys:"I do knowthatthisisjustentertainment.
But
it'sthewaywe shouldlive.Thatis unfair.
mykidsthink
It is unfair
formetoexplaintomysonthat,
no,momis nota lawyer,
dadis not
andthesethings
don'tworkthatway.I think
a doctor,
it'sreallysad."
BLACKSIN WHITEFACE?
Theunreality
oftheshowhasotherdimensions,
including
a too
of
Black
culture.
For
male
Whiteimage
example,one
respondent
to Whitecultureas prethefalseimageof assimilation
criticized
sentedby The CosbyShow."A falseimage.Again,it seemlike
ofpeoplelivingthegood life,acting
outof a fantasy,
something
the
so-called
assimilated,
new-generation
typepeoplethatreally
ofAmerica,yousee something
don'texist.Ifyouwalkthestreets
totallydifferent....The typeofBlackswhohavemadeit,everybody's happy,the don't-worry-be-happy
typeof Black people,
whattheBlack
again,it's a totalfarce,and theydon'trepresent
arereallylike."
massesinthiscountry
accused the Huxtablesof being "White
Anotherrespondent
ofBlackAmerpeopleinblackface"andnota truerepresentation
ica. "Fromoneextreme,
youhavethefamilyon TheCosbyShow.
that'smadeit.To me,all you're
Thehappy-go-lucky
Negrofamily
ontelevision.
lookingatareWhitepeopleinblackfaceperforming
thatmaybe goingon,butit's
Thatmaybe truetoa certainextent,
oftheBlackexperience
inAmerica."
nota truerepresentation
thattheshowcouldbe a "littleless
One femalecriticsuggested
in the area of problem-solving
White,"particularly
techniques.
withBillCosby,thateverybody
"Thenyouhavetheotherextreme
Andthat'strue,we havea lotofthat.Buttheway
is professional.
I thinkis a littleoffthewall.I thinkitcould
problemsaretreated,
be a littleless White.I thinkthatwe justtreatproblemsa littlebit
we'reprofessional
ornot,
differently,
because,let'sfaceit,whether
Andwe stilldon'thavethattotally
we allcamefromnothing.
White
about
mentality
problemsolving."
addsanother
dimension
toourunderstanding
Thiscommentary
Thisrespondent
ofthefearfostered
by assimilation.
maybe sugoftoday'sBlackswouldnotallowthemto
gestingthatthehistory
inthesamemannerthat
Whiteswould.Thedecline
workoutproblems
Inniss,Feagin/MIDDLE-CLASS VIEW OF COSBY 701
of segregation
has allowedBlack Americansto deal withtheir
in waysdifferent
children
fromthedaysofsegregation,
indeedin
BlackyoungwayssimilartothoseofWhites.Undersegregation,
sterswereusuallytaughtto be deferential
and self-effacing,
often
harshchild-rearing
a childnottospeak
through
practices
admonishing
unless spokento and not to stareanyonein the eye. Because
conditions
haveimproved
somewhat,
manyBlackparents
nowencouragechildrenin thesame ways thatWhiteparentsdo, to be
andcurious.Theremayalsobe a suggestion
assertive,
independent,
herethattheBlackapproachtoproblemsolvinginsomematters
is
in unspecified
stilldifferent
waysfromthatofWhiteAmericans,
perhapsthatthereis a Black cultureorAfricanbackground
to be
considered.
Theseexamplesprovideinsightintothecharacter
of thecriticismsthatsee theshowas unreal.Thegeneralcomplaint
is notthat
theshowis anunrealportrait
ofa family,
butofa Blackfamily.
Cosby
hasarguedthathe is trying
toshowwhattrueassimilation
wouldbe
like,notwhatitalreadyis-all racialandethnicgroupsinteracting
andfriends
without
as neighbors
regardforphysicaldifferences.
in ourinterviews
Thereis a clearsuggestion
thattheHuxtables
do notreflect
mostBlackAmericans.
Formanyofourmiddle-class
respondents,
thisis problematic.
Some had problemswiththe
Blackmiddle-class
illusionofperfect
integration
whereby
families
"live
no longerexperience
andwouldineffect
anyracialproblems
Itseemsthatanunderlying
wishoftheseBlack
happilyeverafter."
criticsis thattelevisionshowsfeaturing
Blacks shouldbe harder
andmorerealistic.
Thereis a callhereforgreater
hitting
seriousness
anda rejectionof a happyin dealingwiththeBlack experience,
ofBlackAmerica.Theyhavedifficulty
witha
go-lucky
stereotype
of
None
if
mentioned
that Black
fantasy
portrait Blackcharacters.
lifeas a wholeis bitinganddifficult,
thena showthatis an escapist
mediumis useful.Onlyrecently
does thereseemtobe a pushfor
anddocumentaries
seriousness
dramas.
depicting
onlyreal-life
THE POSITIVE VIEW: TV AS FANTASY
thenegativeresponsesaremorethanequaled
In ourinterviews,
individualsseemto
by positiveresponses.Sometimes,
particular
702
JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JULY 1995
be in a dialoguewiththemselves
or theirfriends
andrelativeson
forthere
isoften
anambivalence
thesematters,
aboutTheCosbyShow.
A numberofourmiddle-class
echoedBill Cosby's
respondents
responseto someofhiscriticsinregardtodemanding
toomuchin
I have
thewayofrealismfroma showontelevision:
"Theproblem
withCosbyis thecomments
ourown
peoplemake,in particular
hasa doctoranda lawyerfora mom
people,likewhatBlackfamily
kids.Theycan'tbelieve
and dad and threeor fourwell-behaved
thatcouldhappen.AndsomeWhitepeopletoo.AndI sitandthink
orBatman
well,that'sjustas realas theBionicMan,orSuperman,
with
andRobin.I mean,youdon'tsee us walkingaroundintights
bigSs on ourshirts."
"The Cosbysortofthing. . . isn'tlikemostBlackfamilies.But
thenI'm notsurethatyou oughtto expecttelevisionto portray
I don'tthinktheyportray
anything
realistically.
anyfamilyrealistheBlack familyrealistitically,so whywouldtheyeverportray
cally,either?"
elsethat
"It'snothonest?Well,so what?So is almosteverything
So
can't
we
be
on
television
yousee ontelevision. why
beingfake?
Orfromthatperspective,
yeah,letus getsomebody
beingfake,just
else.It's an entertainment
medium."
likeeverybody
underscore
thecomplexity
ofBlack
Thesepositiveassessments
toBlack-oriented
shows.Explicitinthesepositivequotes
responses
butso is most
is theideathatTheCosbyShowis indeedunrealistic
ThepublicdoesnotaskotherTV showstobe accurate
oftelevision.
ofreallife.In theirview,becausethepublicenjoys
representations
as TheCosbyShow,
oriented
othershowsthatarejustas fantasy
forexample,TheBionicWomanorTheSixMillionDollar Man,it
is notfairto expectthatwhenBlacksareinvolvedthattheshows
andgreatrealism.
providebothentertainment
EVERYDAY LIFE AND ROLE MODELS
Someofthepositivecomments
tooktheformofacknowledging
thattheexperienceson the showparalleledtheirown: "I think
that.. . Cosbyis an excellentexampleofourlifeandourfamily."
"Cosbyparallelsquitesignificantly
myfamilylifeandthatofmy
Inniss,Feagin/MIDDLE-CLASS VIEW OF COSBY 703
ofa wide
orchildren
thosewhohaveteenagers
particularly
friends,
a familyjoke with
varietyof age ranges.And that'sparticularly
becausewe lookatCosbytoseewhat'sgoing
severalofourfriends,
areselecting
tohappenin ourlivesthatweek."Theserespondents
commonfamily
outoftheshow'saccountoftheBlackexperience
Otherswhohada positiveviewoftheshowwerehappy
problems.
ofBlacksina positivelightinordertocounteract
withtheportrayal
of Black Americansin the mass
the manynegativeportrayals
"I think
thatit'sabouttimethat
in
White
mind:
thus
the
media,and
WhiteAmericasees BlackAmericaina positive,naturalenvironment.""I wishwe had moreshowslike ... Cosbyon TV, where
becausetheydo
andthewifeis a lawyer,
youhavea Blackdoctor,
buttheydo
a
small
I
on
percentage-wise,
scale,
exist. meanthey're
exist.AndI thinkwe taketoomanynegativesandblowthemup."
couldseethat
itwasgoodthatBlackpeople,andWhites,
"I thought
"There
andprojectsandkilleachother."
we all don'tliveinghettos
and
and
stuff
that
have
doctors
lawyers
families
lot
of
Black
area
likethat,youjustdon'teverhearaboutthem,peopledon'twrite
Black Americans
thesemiddle-class
storiesaboutthem."Clearly,
ofthemedia,andWhiteAmericans,
aboutthetendency
areconcerned
as criminals
anddeviant.
theimageofBlackAmericans
toexaggerate
of
theshow'smeritssee Cosby'sportrayal
Those who affirm
"Cosbyis probably
BlackmenandBlackfamiliesverypositively:
thatportrays
Blackmenin a positiverole."
theonlyshow,I think,
amount.
"I think
thatnoquestionBillCosbyhasdonea tremendous
andprojectsa very,verypositiveimage,
And I thinkhe portrays
together,
whatwe needtosee more.""BecauseI thinkitis a family
yetat
anditshowsthatBlackmencanbe leadersintheirfamilies,
emphasizedthe
One respondent
thesame timebe responsible."
ofthevaluesofallAmeriofstressing
thecommonality
importance
"I think
thatI am
ofracialandethnicbackground:
cans,regardless
Blacks in middle-classroles,and
glad to see themportraying
people,havesome
realizingthatBlackpeople,Blackmiddle-class
of thesamevaluesas Whitemiddleclass,Hispanicmiddleclass,
a racethatdetermines
orOrientalmiddleclass.It'snotnecessarily
havesimilarvalues.So
peoplesometimes
it,it'sjustmiddle-class
Blacksokay.TheCosby
I'm gladtoseethattheyarenowportraying
704
JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JULY 1995
Showandtheseothershowsthatarecomingon TV,youknow,we
bothhave someofthesamevalues."Thismeansthatthegeneral
imageof Black Americansas beinglike otherAmericansis an
contribution
of TheCosbyShow.
important
THE BLACK COMMUNITY
notedtheimportance
of The CosbyShow
Otherrespondents
TheyenjoyedtheHuxtablefamily
withintheBlack community.
Blackrolemodels,positivevalues,and
becauseitoffered
portrayal
messagesforBlack Americans:"I'm pleasedwiththe
important
itsetsa goodexampleforyounger
becauseI think
Cosbyportrayal
notso muchin thestereotypical
Black children,
'whenI growup
butjustintheoverallquality
I'm goingtobe a doctor'kindofthing,
the
oflifeandthevalues.""ButI didn'tsee thatbeingunrealistic,
a doctorand a lawyer.I didn'tsee thatas being
typeof family,
There'squitea fewBlack doctorsandBlack lawyers,
unrealistic.
thatwas a goodimagebuilderforthekids.""I think
so I thought
ofAmericaforthenext
youcouldlookaroundthisgreatcountry
708 years,andI don'tthinkyou'reevergoingto finda Huxtable
But hey,youknow,to me itcreatesa dream.I've always
family.
believedthatifyoucan see itinyourmind,it'spossible.Andlike
Blackkid,I want
theCos, heplaysa doctor.
Hey,a little5-year-old
That'scool. I likethat."To be
to be a doctorjustlikeHeathcliff.
able to see a Black femalelawyer,a Black doctor,and Black
forinneryoungsters
goingto collegeis a verypositiveincentive
whomaynotsee thosesametypesintheirown
cityBlackchildren
Heretheaccentis onpositiverolemodelsforBlack
neighborhoods.
ina generalvein:"It'sideal.It'sfamily
Others
commented
children.
basic.It has goodmoral... everything
It's something
structured.
youwantto lookforis in thatshow.""I do likeTheCosbyShow
Ameribecause[it]deliversa wholebunchofmessages,toAfrican
You knowif you watchit, there'salwaysa
cans in particular.
it'strue
message.""Bill Cosby,I loveBill Cosby.It'snota put-on,
butyoudo have
You've gota doctoranda lawyer,
familysetting.
that.Buttheydealwithdown-to-earth
issues,realisticissues.So, I
ofpositiverole
thinkthat'sa pretty
goodimage."The importance
Inniss,Feagin/MIDDLE-CLASS VIEW OF COSBY 705
modelsforallBlackAmericans,
notjustforchildren,
is a significant
themehereandintherestoftheinterviews.
THE FAILURETO ADDRESS SOCIAL ISSUES
Anothermajorcategoryof criticismis relatedto thosejust
discussed,thatThe CosbyShowdoes notaddressanyimportant
racialorothersocialissues,particularly
thosefacingBlackAmericanstoday.Thefollowing
thiscriticism.
quoteillustrates
"They're
notfullyrepresentative,
that'sforsure.Yes,we see thesuccessful
butthat'sonlya sliceoftheaverageAmerican
Black
Cosbyfamily,
family.The familyis completelyadvantaged.They have both
parents,
they'retogether.
They'rebothfullyemployed.And they
havea happyenvironment.
Thatfamily
from
appearstobe insulated
racism.Everything's
on theirblock.Well,
alwaysso wonderful
It leaves you
shoot,thatdoesn'thappen.... So, it's misleading.
witha flicker
ofhopethat'snotrealistic
anddoesn'tgiveus enough
information
aboutwhatto do if yourfamilyisn'tlike that,isn't
orisn'treallyhealthy.
No oneevergetssick
ideal,isn'ttwoparent,
on The CosbyShow.No one has a debilitating
illness.Cosbyhas
not chosento addresssexual abuse. He's minimally
addressed
substanceabuseon there,andhe's rarelytalkedaboutsex. That's
not realityat all. None of thosedaughters
have had unwanted
Thisrespondent
thattheshowhasnotdealt
pregnancies."
suggests
withanyofthemajorproblems
facingBlackAmericans,
including
racism
or
unwedpregnancies.
Thereis a toughcall for
questionsof
theprogram
tobe morethana situation
comedy.Otherrespondents
expandedon thethemeofthefailureto deal withracialdiscrimination:"I havea problemwiththefactthatTheCosbyShowwill
builda 30-minute
Huxtablebuildinga
episodearoundHeathcliff
herosandwich.
Whyaren'twe dealingwith,andI'm notsayingdo
thiseveryweek,buteverynowandthenwhyaren'twe dealingwith
theBlackmiddleclass.Yeah,
somerealissuesthatareconfronting
who
like
thereare somepeople
live
that... whathappenedto me
ifI'm an attorney,
in thecourtroom,
orwhatracistthinghappened
ifI'm a surgeon.
That'swhattheycomehome
tomeinthehospital,
706
JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JULY 1995
talkingabout,and yes theirkids go to NYU and othergreat
likethat,butwhattheycome hometalkingaboutis
universities
whatthisracistprofessor
saidanddid.AndI don'tseethatoccurring
ofwhatBlacklifeis really
onTheCosbyShow.""Itis notindicative
like. You would thinkthatwhenTheo goes out he neverhas
problemsexceptin dealingwithhis buddies.Or thatwhenhis
mothergoes aboutherlegal dutiesas a lawyerthatshe never
discrimination."
On theair,theHuxtablefamilynever
confronts
facesorcopeswithdiscrimination.
Although
askinga comedyshow
to deal seriouslywithsuchissuesas sexualabusemaybe asking
do pointtotheseriousissueofracial
toomuch,theserespondents
at
Black
discriminationthemiddle-class
level.Uppermiddle-class
muchdiscrimination,
anditis overt,recogAmericans
experience
Becausethisdiscrimination
is commonand
nizable,andeveryday.
toexpectthata Blacklawyer
daily,itdoes notseemunreasonable
a Blackcollegestudent,
wouldexperience
ordoctor,andcertainly
itanddeal withitindailylife.
A SUBTLE TREATMENT OF RACISM
Noneofourrespondents
explicitly
disagreedwiththecriticisms
just noted.On theovertlevel,theyagreedthatThe CosbyShow
doesnotdeal withracismanddiscrimination.
However,at another
noted
levelthereis a battlegoingonagainstracism.Onerespondent
ofracismina subtleway,
thatCosbytendstoapproachtheproblem
"Butat another
leveltheydeal witha
byallusionand indirection:
lot of issuesin a rathersubtleway.Therewas an episodewhere
MartinLutherKing's'I Have a Dream'speechwas beingwatched
by thefamilyat theveryend oftheshow,afterI thinktherehad
was exambeendifferent
familysquabbles."Thissubtletreatment
"In theshowyoucan see a kindof
inedeloquently
bya professor:
ofa family
thatis not
intervention
againstracism,bythedepiction
that
racism.
have
a
life
constructed
They
speakstoBlack
totally
by
a traditionally
Blackcollege.Buthaving
art,Blackmusic,including
ofrepresentations
of racismmeans
said all that,theveryscarcity
thatonecanlookatTheCosbyShowanddecideonthebasisofjust
is very
thateverything
thatrepresentation
is OK, wheneverything
Inniss,Feagin/MIDDLE-CLASS VIEW OF COSBY 707
underoneset
harmless
be itselffairly
muchnotOK. So whatmight
underanother
endsup beinghideouslyharmful
ofcircumstances,
setofcircumstances."
Whatcomes out as positivefroma Black pointof view,the
abilitytoliveoutsideofracismfora time,becomesnegativewhen
Whitestaketheabsenceofracismtomeanthatthingsarefinefor
in the studyby
Black Americans.This problemis underscored
LewisandJhally
(1992),wheretheyconcludethatformanyoftheir
fortheAmerican
"theHuxtables'achievement
Whiterespondents
This
dreamleads themto a worldwhereraceno longermatters.
enableswhiteviewersto combinean impeccableliberalattitude
ofblackpeople"(p. 110).
towardracewitha deep-rooted
suspicion
forWhitesin a waymuch
In thisway,TheCosbyShowfunctions
tothelimits
forBlacks.Itpanders
from
thewayitfunctions
different
inthelate20thcentury.
ofWhiteacceptanceofBlackAmericans
BLACK LIFE ONLYAS COMEDY?
to negaWe haveseenin thepreviousanalysessometendency
judge theshow'scontent.The followingretivelyor positively
sponsesare directedat thegenreof theshow.Similarto earlier
thesecriticsfeelthatalwaysseeingBlacksin situation
comments,
comediesindicatesthatBlack lifeand Black issuesarenottaken
"True,Cosbyhasa greatBlackimage,butbasically,it's
seriously.
It's still
comedy.It's stillcomic.It's stilllaughter.
stilla situation
"In
Black
intense
drama."
terms
of
It's notreal,
entertainment.
intelevision,
sadcommentary
thatBlacksas
it'sa rather
portrayals
clowns,or Blacks as thosewho laugh,continuesto be themain
imagethat'sportrayed....It'sstillclearthatBlacksas humansthat
have to deal witha varietyof seriousissuesdoesn'tseemto get
across . . . ithasn't dealt seriouslyenoughwithtopics thatBlacks
in generalhavetoface.""TheCosbyShowshowsa setofaffluent
Thereareno showsthatcan
comedy.
Blacks,butstillit'sa situation
as
the
Black
deal with
personseriously, a seriousperson.It seems
like in orderto discussBlack issues,you have to laugh."One
toCosby'sachievements
tooka morepositiveapproach
respondent
708
JOURNAL
OF BLACKSTUDIES/JULY1995
in his comedyshow:"I'm a firmbelieverthatthestrength
of the
is alwaysin thefamily,
Black community
and they'restarting
to
I thinkTheCosbyShow
showBlacksin a strong
familysituation.
started
thatinsteadoftheslapstick
comedytype.I thinkwe'restill
nottakenseriously
becauseall ofthosearestillinthesitcomtype
I thinkit'sdifficult
formostpeopletoacceptthatBlacks
situation.
havenormalfamily
problems,
andtheydealwiththemsimilarly
as
theydo." A clearadvantageis thatCosbyhas movedthesituation
comedyto a level beyondthatof themoretypicalSambo-type
Thisputstheearliercomments
Blackcomedy.
intogreater
perspective.Theselasttworesponsesseemto be arguingthecase forthe
ofclass positionoverracialidentity.
Thesecomments
importance
raisetheimportant
questionas to whyWhiteAmericanshave a
"comfort
zone,"whichmeansthatWhiteswill onlywatchthose
Black showswithwhichtheyfeelcomfortable.
Because White
tomakeorbreaka showandinfluence
viewershavethenumbers
areusuallymet.Why
itssponsors,
theyaretheoneswhoseinterests
is the Whitecomfortzone only able to encompassBlacks as
Blacklifeandproblems
comedians?One might
saythattoWhites,
unconsciousand
are notseen as serious.Or itmaybe something
less devious.It is doubtlesslinkedto theold stereotypes
where
andStepinFetchits.
Blacksareseenas buffoons
CONCLUSION
We have examinedthe Black middle-classresponseto The
CosbyShowandfounda mixedviewoftheshowanditsimpact.
The responsesare bothpositiveand negativein tone.Yet the
indicatea reluctance
tobe totally
interviews
negativeaboutoneof
ofBlackson TV. Middle-classBlacks
thefewpositiveportrayals
wantpositivedepictionsof theirlives. Many also wantmore
Some feelthattheserealisticdepictionscan
realisticportrayals.
thancomedy.
a genreother
Forthem,
onlybe accomplished
through
of
as
makes
the
Black
Blacks
comedians
to alwaysportray
light
thatBlacklifewithall itsinherent
andindicates
situation
problems
two significant
is not takenseriously.Our interviews
highlight
Inniss,Feagin/MIDDLE-CLASS VIEW OF COSBY 709
aspectsof theirresponses:(a) thefearthattheshowwill render
Black problemsas irrelevant
and (b) thehope and optimism
that
withcontinued
work,theBlackcondition
can improve.
The negativeresponseshighlight
boththeambivalenceof the
respondents
andthefearthattheshowfosters
thefalseassumption
thatBlackproblemshavebeensolvedandareno longerrelevant.
By showinga Black familythatforall intents
and purposeshas
we areledtobelievethatwe areindeedlivingin
fullyassimilated,
an equal opportunity
societyandwitha littlehardworkandlotsof
perseverance,
anyonecan makeit. Whenwe meettheHuxtable
we are shownthattheyhad a difficult
grandparents,
life.The
grandfather
livedin a timeof segregated
armedforcesand segregatedmusicclubswherehe was acceptedas a musicianbutnotas
a person.Butheworkedhard,andnowhehasa doctorson,a lawyer
incollege.The overallimpresandgrandchildren
daughter-in-law,
sionis thattheAmerican
dreamis realforanyonewhois willingto
playbytherules.Weareshownsubstantial
inonly
upwardmobility
one generation
willbe evenmore
andled to believethatmobility
fortheHuxtablechildren
becausetheytooareplaying
pronounced
thattheywillnotface
bytherules.We areleftwiththeimpression
or obstaclesin theirquestforthegoodlife.Theyare
anybarriers
decidedlyuppermiddleclass andcan onlygo up-no discriminationor downwardmobility
fortheHuxtablesor by extensionfor
Blacks as a group.The positiveinterviews
highlight
anothersignificant
aspectof theBlack middle-class
responseto The Cosby
Show:hopeoroptimism.
itis truethatnotall Blacksare
Although
livingthegoodlife,withprestigious
jobs,decenthousingandliving
and college-bound
one can alwayshopefor
conditions,
children,
andworktowardthesethings.
Justseeingwhatlifelikethiscould
be likemaybe a tremendous
motivator.
It mayinspirehardwork
and wardoffdiscouragement.
One middle-age
Black femalewas
articulate
on thispoint:
Liketheaveragewomaninsocietyis notblondeandblue-eyed,
the
averageBlackfamily
bynomeanscomesclosetotheCosbyfamily.
ButI thinkwhatitdoes,on theotherhand,is suggestthatthereare
someBlackpeopleandfamilies
outtherethatdisplaythosecharacteristics
andqualities.... I thinkthatitdisplaysthefactthatthere
710
OF BLACKSTUDIES/JULY1995
JOURNAL
I
in society,
condition
is hope,andevenifthat'snota predominant
saystopeople
thinkthatjustbythemerefactthatit'son television
thatyoucan getthere.
in thiscountry
costof havingpositiveBlack
Generally,
then,theopportunity
seemsto be a lesseningoftheconcernwith
televisioncharacters
cangetbetter.
anda fostering
ofhopethatthings
theBlackcondition
in Black
theambivalence
Thisis perhapsthedilemmathatfosters
The
to
Cosby
Show.
responses
middle-class
REFERENCES
Asante,M. K. [A. L. Smith].(1976). Televisionand Black consciousness.Journalof
26(4), 137-141.
Communication,
byBlacksandWhitesin four
intelevision
Bales,F. (1986). Televisionuse andconfidence
selectedyears.JournalofBlackStudies,16, 283-291.
23(4),29-34.
Quarterly,
zoneforWhites.Television
R. G. (1988).TV's Blackcomfort
Carter,
Humboldt
Journalof
towardracialequality.
A. M. (1990). Attitudes
Case, C. E., & Greeley,
Social Relations,16(1), 67-94.
Cheers,D. M. (1987). TheCosbyShowgoes to SpelmanCollegefortheseasonfinale.Jet,
72(2), 28-30.
of ethnicminorities.
Comstock,G., & Cobbey,R. E. (1979). Televisionand thechildren
29(1), 104-115.
JournalofCommunication,
Film,12(1), 49-52.
J.(1986). The cloningof"Cosby."American
Curry,
4 kidsintostars.McCall's.
How Bill Cosbyturned
Davidson,B. (1986,September).
Dyson,M. (1989). Bill Cosbyandthepoliticsofrace.ZMagazine,2(3), 26-30.
American
Film,pp. 8-11.
Thecoloroflaughter.
D. (1988,September).
Ehrenstein,
TV: Thefirst
twodecades.Black
Fife,M. D. (1974,November).Blackimagein American
Scholar,pp. 7-15.
Who's makingthebigbucks?Reader'sDigest,
Frank,A. D., & Zweig,J.(1988,January).
pp. 118-122.
Gates,H. L., Jr.(1992). TV's Black worldturns-butstaysunreal.In M. L. Andersen&
CA:
(pp.310-317).Belmont,
P. H. Collins(Eds.),Race,class,andgender:Ananthology
Wadsworth.
USA: Itsfeetofclay.BlackScholar,6(3), 2-6.
Goodlet,C. B. (1974). Mass communications
dream.CriticalStudiesin
BlackAmericans,
andtheAmerican
Gray,H. (1989). Television,
6, 376-386.
Mass Communication,
AnnualReviewof
C. R. (1979). Sociologyofmasscommunications.
Holz,J.R., & Wright,
Sociology,5, 193-217.
R. E. (1986). TV's topmom& dad.Ebony,41(4), 29-34.
Johnson,
R. E. (1992). TheCosbyShowendsafter8 yearswitha vitalmessagetoall young
Johnson,
Blacks.Jet,82(2),56-61.
Inniss,Feagin/MIDDLE-CLASS VIEW OF COSBY 711
andinterpreters
ofmasscommunication.
Kassarjian,W. (1973). Blacksas communicators
Journalism
Quarterly,
50, 285-291.
Landry,
B. (1987). ThenewBlackmiddleclass. Berkeley:University
ofCalifornia
Press.
Leckenby,
J.D., & Surlin,S. H. (1976). Incidental
sociallearning
andviewerrace:"All in
theFamily"and"SanfordandSon." JournalofBroadcasting,
20, 481-494.
Lewis,J.,& Jhally,
S. (1992). Enlightened
racism.Boulder,CO: Westview.
Norment,
L. (1985). TheCosbyShow.Ebony,40(6), 27-34.
O'Kelly,C., & Bloomquist,
L. E. (1976). WomenandBlacksonTV.JournalofCommunication,26(4), 179-184.
Poussaint,
A. F. (1988). The Huxtables:Factorfantasy?
Ebony,43(12), 72-74.
Seggar,J.F. (1977). Television'sportrayal
of minorities
and women:1971-75.Journalof
Broadcasting,
21, 435-446.
Stevens,R. (1987). BlacksandWhites,daysandnights.
Television
Quarterly,
22(4), 77-87.
C. A. (1986). Televisionviewingandself-concept
Stroman,
amongBlackchildren.
Journal
ofBroadcasting
and Electronic
Media,30(1), 87-93.
in gratification.
Stroman,C. A., & Becker,L. B. (1978). Racial differences
Journalism
Quarterly,
55,767-771.
Taylor,
E. (1989).FromtheNelsonstotheHuxtables:
Genreandfamily
inAmerican
imagery
network
television.
Qualitative
Sociology,12(1), 13-28.
T. (1986,July).Black,brown,andbeige.NationalReview,pp. 59-60.
Teachout,
Walsh,M. A. (1992, April24). Cosbylaudedby churchofficialsas seriesends.Florida
Catholic,p. 14.
ofDr.Cos. Emerge,3(7), 22-26.
Williams,D. A. (1992). Theprimetimeteachings
LeslieB. Innissis an assistant
in theDepartment
professor
ofSociologyat Florida
StateUniversity-Tallahassee.
She receivedherPh.D.fromtheUniversity
ofTexas
at Austinin 1990.Her teaching
and researchinterests
are race andminority
group
relationsand sociologyof education.She is currently
writing
a bookabout the
long-term
ofbeinga schooldesegregation
pioneer.
effects
Joe R. Feagin is a graduateresearchprofessorofsociologyat the University
of
Florida.His researchon racial and genderdiscrimination
has beenpublishedin
RacialandEthnicRelations(withClaireceFeagin,1993),LivingwithRacism:The
BlackMiddleClass Experience(withMelvinSikes,1994),and WhiteRacism:The
Basics (withHermanVera,inpress).He has servedas scholar-in-residence
at the
U.S. Commission
on CivilRights.He is currently
working
on a bookaboutBlack
students
at Whitecollegesand a bookaboutBlackcapitalism.