Enlightened Racism and The Cosby Show


  • Rachel Crooks Florida State University


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


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.

Author Biography

Rachel Crooks, Florida State University

Rachel Crooks is a junior pursuing a double major in History and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She originally wrote this paper as a sophomore, but since then she has become interested in comparative race relations of the United States and of Latin America. After graduation, she hopes to more thoroughly research the state of race relations in Latin America and focus on the media representation of socially excluded groups including Afro-Latinos.






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