Norman Lear Admits To The Attitude White Liberals Hold Towards Black Americans

NormalLearby Patricia L. Dickson   10/5/14
In a stunning confession, Norman Lear, a liberal sitcom writer during the 1970s, outright admits to the unfavorable attitude he held toward black Americans in the television shows that he created and wrote for. Lear made those comments in an article he wrote in The Hollywood Reporter.

Lear is responsible for the popular sitcoms All in The Family, Good Times, Sanford and Son, Maude and The Jeffersons. I have fond memories of watching all of these shows as a child growing up in the seventies. In the article, Mr. Lear, now 92 years old, talks about the conflicts he encountered with some of his cast members about the scripts (storylines) that he wrote. He had a conflicted relationship with Carroll O’Connor, the star of All in The Family, and John Amos and Esther Rolle, the stars of Good Times. One statement in the article leaped off the page at me. It involved the standard he used in creating the show Good Times that featured a black family with a father in the home:

The Evans family still lived, as marginally as possible, where Mike and Eric placed them, in the Cabrini-Green project. James held down three jobs if he had to. Still, we were determined that: (A) the family would never go on welfare; (B) they would deal with the reality of their world — gangs, drugs, crime, poverty, etc.

The idea that the Evans family would live in the Cabrini-Green project came from one of the black writers for the show (more on him later) that used to live there. However, Allan Manings, a white comedy writer and producer, wrote the GoodTimesstoryline for the show and decided that the black family “would live as marginally as possible” and “live with the reality of their world” and Norman Lear agreed with it. How did the white writers know what the reality of their world was? The insistence that he (Norman Lear) knew better than the black actors, John Amos and Esther Rolle, of what black Americans felt and how they talked became the center of disagreement between Lear and the two black actors.

He wrote that after the show began, Esther and John began to feel a personal responsibility for every aspect of TV’s first black family’s behavior. After hearing from friends, family and even their pastor, John and Esther felt the weight of believing themselves to be the public image of their race. It eventually became to be a bit too much for them, especially when they themselves held different views. Lear writes:

The Evans family they thought they should be presenting to the world was becoming too good to be true. Allan and I, their white producers and writers, would often hear from Esther or John, “No, we wouldn’t do that.” Or, “Uh-uh, I wouldn’t say that,” or “She would never feel that way.”

I must admit that Norman Lear was very candid about how he felt as a white writer; however, he clearly reveals how white liberals view black Americans. They have their own interpretation of how blacks are supposed to act and think. I have personally encountered whites who have told me that I am not acting black as though they know how blacks are supposed to act.

Lear also admitted in the article to what he calls inverse racism also known as the soft bigotry of low expectation, when he credited and paid two black writers, Mike Evans and Eric Monte, for work that they did not actually do:

 They blew it creatively with a poor copycat of a script. But even though what they wrote was a far cry from what we shot, we did not seek to change their credit as the sole co-creators. I could be confessing to a bit of inverse racism here when I admit that it even pleased me to see them credited and paid. That would not have happened, at least not gratuitously, if they were white.

In addition, Lear attributed all of his scripts that he wrote for Carroll O’Conner, of All in The Family, which included bigotry, to conservatism. Many of the scripts put Carroll O’Conner in conflict with Norman Lear. I read an article a few years ago that after the Show Good Times ended, the black actors left with a sense of shame. I now know why.


PatriciaDicksonPatricia Dickson blogs at Patricia’s Corner.
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8 Responses to Norman Lear Admits To The Attitude White Liberals Hold Towards Black Americans

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    For what it’s worth, I thought Archie Bunker was usually by far the more decent man (when you got past the verbal sparring) than Meathead. Lear attempted to make a conservative dupe out of him, but America recognized in Archie the sort of normal, hard-working, and deep-down good American that they understood was the standard — despite whatever superficial non-PC stuff came out of his mouth.

    Lear was a libtard who had success in TV. I’ll give him that. He certainly was involved in the “ground breaking” (that is, civilization breaking) method of “social commentary.” And after all that time, we’ve been social-commentaried into a cesspool of behavior and beliefs.

    I never watched “Good Times,” but I did watch my share of “All in the Family.” Who can forget the somewhat good-humored kiss that Sammy Davis Jr. applied to the supposedly bigoted Archie Bunker?

    But I soon tired of the show. It was just too much screaming and arguing. And one can take only so much of Lear’s vapid stereotyping. Perhaps Mr. Lear was just trying to normalize what typically is the moral cesspool of liberal family life. All in all, via “All in the Family,” lear seems to have some kind of hands-off affinity for Archie Bunker even as he uses him for his dependable foil.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I saw All in the Family sometimes, and I would agree with Brad that Mike (Meathead) didn’t come off well. (This may have been an early indication of the liberal tendency to reason backwards — if you agree with the conclusion, then the argument must have been valid.) I don’t recall ever watching Maude or Good Times, and only once Sanford and Son (an episode that had a delightful Christmas Carol parody).

    It’s very typical of an elitist liberal to believe he knows everything (after all, their intellectual and moral superiority is the justification for their elitist conviction that they have the right and even duty to run everyone else’s lives). Note that Lear was also the founder of the grossly misnamed People for the American Way.

  3. I remember watching ALL of those sitcoms as a child and thoroughly enjoying them! Because I was so young, I did not understand or catch the stereotypes. What struck me about the article is how liberals have not changed (and probably never will). The attitude that he portrayed in “Good Times” is exactly the way the welfare state intends for blacks today. The sitcom writers wrote that they intended for the Evans family to live “marginally” but never rise above that. Does that not sound like welfare? In addition, what really struck me is how he thought he was helping the black writers by crediting to them work that they had not done. Why did he not grade their work and suggest to them that they take some writing classes to improve their writing? By just paying them and crediting them, the black writers probably thought that they were good writers and in turn never reached their potential.

    I remember being stationed in Utah while in the military. The state is predominately white. The military base was the only place one would most likely run into a minority (Asian, Hispanic or Black). I worked outside of Hill, AFB at a Depot. I was the only black at the time working on the entire Depot. The white civilians told me that the only perception they had of black people came from what they saw on television. They often told me that I did not “act black”. What upset them the most was that I had morals. I did not curse, drink, smoke or fornicate (although all of them did); therefore, I was not acting black. One white guy told me that behind my back they would often say, “who does she think she is? Does she think she is better than us?”

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Well, evidently you were better than they were.

      Your comment about the black writers is why I consider public miseducation a great fraud: Not only do they frequently fail to do their job, but they tell those students who aren’t learning that they are. (Consider Paul Shanklin’s parody of “Wonderful World”.) Walter Williams, around 20 years ago, wrote about a black Philadelphia high-schooler who planned to go to college with a sports scholarship (I think he was a track star) and had good enough grades that he felt confident of making it in. Then his SATs came back too low to qualify even by the minimal standards of the NCAA. He was planning to sue the College Board, but I thought a better target was the school that falsely led him to think he was actually learning when he clearly wasn’t.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The sitcom writers wrote that they intended for the Evans family to live “marginally” but never rise above that. Does that not sound like welfare?

      In a word, Yes!

      I watched some “Maude” in my day. What can you say about Bea Arthur but that, at least on television, she was a commanding presence. I didn’t watch any of “Good Times.” The show just seemed too silly. “The Jeffersons” had a lot more going for in terms of a “black show.” I was bored by the Cosby show, and yet Bill Cosby himself is one of my idols in terms of standup comics. My dad had all his comedy albums and we listened to them as kids a lot. Imagine that. A premier standup comic that even kids could listen to. No f-bombs. How the world has changed.

      It does seem the white liberal attitude towards blacks is condescending. The message is “We will take care of you.” The implicit part of the deal is “You must let us.”

      Still, it might be a bit difficult to eek out black/white issues because television trivializes everything it touches. It is an equal opportunity degrader.

      The white civilians told me that the only perception they had of black people came from what they saw on television. They often told me that I did not “act black”.

      Oh, I believe you when you say that people said that. It’s kind of hard for me to believe that people can be that stupid. But I’m learning every day that they indeed can be. I’ve lived a sheltered life. 🙂

  4. glenn fairman says:

    A black acquaintance told me that The Cosby Show was misnamed. He said it should have been titled “Amazing Stories.”

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