This is an awesome episode of Family Matters! It has a good mix of gut-wrenching, tear-jerking drama, and light-hearted, sometimes corny humor.
In this episode from 1991 (man does time fly!), Laura and Urkel encounter racism when they try to start a black history class at their high school. Racial tension inflames the campus, and Laura wonders if she did the right thing. After a lot of tears and hurt on the part of Laura, Grandma Winslow tells her granddaughter about her own experience as a little girl. When she was little, Grandma Winslow loved to read, but her local library was for whites only. The first time she asked for a library card, she was thrown out and cried all the way home. But Grandma Winslow didn’t give up. She went back to that library every day for six months, often to jeers, taunts, and threats. Eventually, the very guy who threw her out looked at her, sighed, and gave her a library card.
Grandma Winslow’s experience has real-life parallels. Rosa Parks tried to register to vote over and over, yet she encountered obstacle after obstacle. But she kept on trying. She went back, and she continued to study so she could pass the required test. Finally, the white registrar said to the bigoted secretary, “Just give her the registration.”
When I was at DePauw, I read Robert Coles‘ A Call to Service. One of the chapters was about a little black girl in the South who went to a white school after it was forcibly integrated. Like Grandma Winslow, she experienced a lot of pain and intimidation as she travelled to school each day, and she wondered if she was doing the right thing. But her grandma sat her down and told her that she was actually doing her white persecutors a service. I didn’t understand that at the time, but now I see what the grandmother was saying: the little girl was helping her white persecutors by confronting their racism. She was challenging their view of “the way things are.” In a way, she was helping them to become better people.
This Family Matters episode has something else that I liked: it highlights the contributions that blacks have made to America and the world. Did you know that Alexander Dumas, the author of the Three Musketeers and the Count of Monte Cristo, was half-black? I didn’t know that! Or that African-Americans invented the stoplight and the golf-T? Or that the first open-heart surgery was performed by an African-American?
This episode teaches me about perseverance. And I hope it also encourages people not to let anyone tell them they’re inferior.