After watching the 1st two episodes of “All-American Muslim,” I have come to the conclusion that such a show is more beneficial for sparking discussion and confronting misconceptions about American Muslims than having a “Muslim Cosby Show” as stated by Katie Couric. In fact, I completely disagree with Couric’s proposition that America’s view of Blacks was significantly shifted by that show, thus American Muslims should push for a similar television program. Let me tell you why.
“The Cosby Show,” which was the top rated television show in America for much of the 1980’s and was a hit in Apartheid South Africa did virtually nothing to shift the dominant culture’s view about Black life in America. This was expounded upon in an academic manner in the book Enlightened Racism: The Cosby Show, Audiences, and the Myth of the American Dream that highlights how the “Cosby Show” not only failed to address the reality of structural racism facing Blacks during the Reagan years in America but also presented the “good Blacks” trope of the benign, apolitical and assimilated negroes. Hence, yuppies to Afrikaners loved being entertained without discomfort by the show, which did not address much of the reality of Black folk on a day to day basis, including my Black middle class background of having two parents, who were college grads.
And to be clear, high ratings of a television show with Black actors did not translate into a dramatic paradigm shift away from bias attitudes against Blacks. To the point, White Americans have always loved being entertained by Blacks from fiddlers on slave plantations to Jack Johnson boxing to Flip Wilson’s coonery while playing Geraldine.
I’m not saying that I didn’t like many Cosby episodes; I watched them too. However, there is no evidence to say that the show shifted perceptions about Black folk within the status quo much less educated White folks about the reality of Black life.
“All-American Muslim,” on the other hand though there is some acting for the camera, at least shows some of the reality of American Muslims even if the cast is exclusively suburban Lebanese-American save the Irishman Jeff. Besides “All-American Muslim” showcasing Muslims of varying religiosity, the show has touched on some of the tensions that Muslims live under in a post-9/11 America in terms of anti-Muslim bigotry, racism and misperceptions.
I surely don’t want to see a sitcom of a homogenized Muslim family that fails to discuss how America is involved in two wars in Muslim countries as a reaction to 9/11 and the tensions that Muslims have face with Islamophobia and identity issues. Those are issues that continue to affect American Muslims and have been topics of many families including mine.
Hence, this is why I don’t want a “Muslim Cosby Show,” and I’m glad that “All-American Muslim” is not that despite its shortcomings.