My 9 year old daughter loves to watch old comedies on YouTube. I thought this was perfectly fine as the standards of decency were higher then and the stuff she watches is mostly silly and innocuous.
Or so I thought.
Friday night I was driving her to a Father/Daughter dance and we got to talking. She told me that she needed to do a report on an African American who changed history because February is black history month.
“Good,” I said, “Who did you choose? George Washington Carver? Rosa Parks? Martin Luther King Jr.?”
“No, none of those people. Other kids in my class are doing reports on them.”
“So who did you choose?”
” I chose Gary Coleman.”
“Yes. He changed comedy forever!!”
“Changed comedy forever? Whatchu talkin’ about?”
February 15, 2010 at 11:57 am
well..she's got a point. More people probably remember that one line from Gary Coleman than they do any inventions, quotes or achievements by other Black historical figures.
February 15, 2010 at 7:19 pm
There really is something to that. Diff'rent Strokes, for all it's sappy dialogue and bad catch-phrases actually broke a lot of lingering racial barriers at the time. There were families who were "mixed" since the first slaves were brought to the US hundreds of years ago. Yet it was only until 1969 in "Loving vs the State of VA" that mesogyny laws were finally struck down, giving validity to anyone who wanted to marry outside their "race" (a totally archaic concept, FYI).
Diff'rent Strokes showed that regardless of skin color, ethnic identity and even socio-ecoomic background, people are people. Sure, the first season was all about outsiders to the Drummond's situation trying to wrap their minds around, "But…you're white…and, um…they're….um…" Yet after the 2nd or 3rd season, it was just a non-issue, and society followed suit (or vice-versa, or both). Gary Coleman was central to this strategy; he was the kid every parent wanted to adopt. He almost single-handedly gave white suburban families the ability to see black kids as just plain kids. Regardless of his quirks or current situation, your daughter made an interesting and defensable choice.
As an aside, I also have to mention Todd Bridges, who will always be my perpetual hero for knocking Vanilla Ice on his @ss.