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Laughter and Lessons: 7 Black Sitcoms That Bravely Tackled Controversial Issues

Fresh prince

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Even scholars have argued that the Fresh Prince and his family were one of the most important Black families in TV history. The show flawlessly integrated comedy with the discussion of serious issues in a manner that kept viewers laughing while also learning some important lessons about wealth inequality, conceptions of beauty and racial profiling. During the 1991 episode “Mistaken Identity,” Will is pulled over because police believed he is “suspicious” for driving a nice car. The show not only focused on police profiling of Black men and assuming them to be a threat, but it also gave a look at how difficult it can be for some Black men, in this case Carlton, to deal with the fact that the justice system is not built to work in their favor. The show also famously reveals the emotional turmoil that many Black youths face after being raised by a single parent and feeling as if they are unwanted and unloved by the parent who is missing from their lives.



Family Matters

While gun control has recently become a popular political hot button, some people may forget that it was Steve Urkel who brought the issue of gun control into many Black homes decades ago. After facing scary bullies at school, Laura comes close to buying a gun from a young dealer. That’s when Urkel steps in with a rather corny but entertaining rap about how dangerous guns are and encourages the students to “save a life” and turn in their guns to authorities. The episode deals with the struggle between feeling safe in one’s own community and the dangers of already frightened, young people who have no formal training on how to use a gun obtaining the deadly weapons.

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