July 7, 2005
Written by C.N.
Devotees of TV reality shows may have heard about the ABC show Welcome to the Neighborhood that was to be aired this month. The premise was that seven families would have the chance to win a house located in an affluent suburb of Austin, TX, with three of the families already living in the neighborhood given the power to vote off one family each week until the winning family is “crowned.” The seven contestant families included Korean Americans, wiccan witches, Blacks, gay men who adopted a Black baby, tatooed rebels, a White family where the mom is a stripper, and a single Hispanic mother with four kids.
However, many civil rights groups were alarmed at the premise that White neighbors were given the power to determine who could be their neighbor, which is actually against the law. As a result of mounting criticisms and a threat of a lawsuit, Yahoo News reports that ABC has decided not to air the show at all, even though all the episodes have already been shot and were ready to go:
With a threatened lawsuit and accusations the network was tone deaf to bigotry, ABC may have traded a major headache for the temporary embarrassment of throwing out a series that was already finished. . . “Why should people of color and others … be humiliated and degraded to teach white people not to be bigots?” said Shanna Smith, president of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “That’s not good for race relations in America.”
Within the first two episodes, one man made a crack about the number of children piling out of the Hispanic family’s car. The citizenry of the business-owning Asian family was questioned and displays of affection between the gay men were met with disgust. . . . “I really think it’s such a positive show and such a good thing to put on TV and cause viewers to look at themselves, I’m surprised by the negative reaction to it,” said Andrea Wong, head of alternative programming at ABC.”
ABC’s lawyers gave “Welcome to the Neighborhood” the go-ahead, and it apparently didn’t disturb Wong when the family that shared her Asian-American descent was the first to be knocked out.
The show’s critics are completely justified in their outrage — it is indeed illegal to deny people housing on the basis of race/ethnicity, among a list of many factors. Based just on that, the show never should have been developed and shot in the first place.
Having said that however, I am a little disappointed that the show will not be aired because it means that the nation will not get to see just how judgmental, intolerant, and racist otherwise “normal” White Americans can be. This would have been a great opportunity to show people that contrary to popular beliefs, racial prejudice is alive and well in America and that given the power, many Whites will not hesitate in discriminating against people of color.