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Monochrome casting—that is, casting people of all the same race (typically white people), has been a problem in Hollywood for decades. However, television shows, especially starting in the '90s, attempted to rectify this issue by mixing in a few minorities here and there. By minorities we typically mean African-Americans. Thus, the token black character.
In retrospect, this was a cheesy way to deal with diversity. But even today, shows continue to struggle to find a balance. Just last year, HBO’s Girls was criticized for depicting a relatively minority-free New York City and in response brought in Donald Glover to play Hannah’s new boyfriend for a brief two episodes in the second season.
A lot of the '90s TV series were successful in that they tried to stay away from stereotypes of African-Americans and even dispel some by casting blacks in roles of authority, or casting them opposite the co-star as a buddy character to implicitly level the playing field. However, many of these shows also failed because they, more often than not, dealt with race differences by simply ignoring them.
Here’s a look at some of the funny, awkward, and interesting ways all-white television shows have added some color into their casts: 25 Token Black Characters From '90s TV Shows, and What Happened to Them.
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Written by Brooklyne Gipson (@Brooklyne)