INTRODUCTION
Sasha Torres
I.
What does race look like on television? Given the centrality of racial repre-
sentation to television's representational practices, it is remarkable how little
attention this question has received from television scholars. One of the early
exceptions to this rule is
J.
Fred MacDonald's Blacks and White
TV,
first pub-
lished in
1983,
which argues that television reneged on its early promise to
"be almost color-blind," substituting this commitment with "persistent stereo-
typing, reluctance to develop or star black talent and exclusion of minorities
from the production side of the industry."
1
Blacks and White
TV
remains the
only book-length study to survey the presence of African Americans in and on
television throughout the medium's history. It provides a wealth of historical
information and correctly points to the necessity for minority representation
in the television industry. But its premises and conclusions now seem prob-
lematic in light of recent scholarship on race and representation. New work
on the national history of race relations and on the mass mediation of race
suggests that MacDonald's assumption that television ever sought to produce
"prejudice-free ... popular entertainment" is at least overstated, particularly
if we take into account
TV'S
pre-civil rights era origins, its virtually total sub-
mission to the interests of corporate capital, and its generic inheritances from
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