I’m jumping ahead one week by choosing to discuss the hit 1970s-1980s sitcom The Jeffersons but once the show was in my head there was no getting rid of it. The Jeffersons follows an African American family as they move up in the world from a working-class life in Queens, New York to a luxury apartment in Manhattan. Although the show ended its run in 1985, several themes that were depicted are still very much relevant in the African American community.
First, is the issue of maintaining your identity as an African American in a new, all White environment. You see this a lot with George, the father, with his aggressive, over the top but ultimately loving personality because he does not allow his family to forget where they came from. This conflicting tension can be seen in modern day African American culture, for example it’s common to listen to Black artists discuss their desire to leave their impoverished communities but once they do they make it a point not to completely “sell out” and still keep their culture alive in the way they express themselves.
Another aspect of The Jeffersons that is still prevalent, and one could argue always will be, is the issue of interracial relationships. George and his wife Louise (Weezie) become friends with Tom and Helen Willis an interracial couple with two grown children whom George refers to as “zebras.” Although George’s attitude about Tom and Helen’s relationship is problematic it does raise the issue of racism that it still active within the Black community. I can’t speak for everyone in the Black community but I can say from experience that several of my relatives are less open to interracial relationships than others. When I was younger it didn’t make much sense to me but when I got older I started looking at this issue from their perspective and many of them lived through times where overt acts of racism were not just common but the norm. This led them to having extremely negative associations with the White community that are hard to dismiss in their minds.
The influence of The Jeffersons can be seen in new television sitcoms as well. A few weeks ago news broke that LeBron James would be producing a sitcom set in Cleveland. The show would be a twist on The Jeffersons but with a White family moving into a predominantly Black community. I love to see shows that will always have a place in our culture, I think something about that is truly special.
Still from The Jeffersons, 1975.