Why there are No Black Cast Members in “How I Met Your Mother”

I watched every episode up to season 6 of “How I Met Your Mother.”  I did it in about two weeks, which wasn’t that hard. I just kept it on in the back ground while I did other things.  Some seasons were more engaging than others, but the premise behind it, that you’re watching the show for the ultimate revelation of learning how Ted finally meets the woman of his dreams, is brilliant. It’s a plot device, a classic trick, but it’s a brilliant plot device and a wonderful trick.

Of course, I have an issue. The title of this post gives it away.

The show has a strange connection to Black culture.  Many of the characters say lines as if they were written for a stereotypical Black character, as if a Black character was a ghost (or a spook! See what I did?).  Barney once said, “I don’t see no ring on this finger!”  Robin twisted her neck and said, “Pfft, who you talking to?”  And my favorite character, Liley, is so Black she can barely stand it, saying, “Be cool baby, Damn!” and “Momma needs it bad!” almost twice an episode.  There was one episode where she met a Black friend and spoke in “Niggerish” for half and episode!  It’s funny, and not insulting, really.  I’m not sure why it’s not. Maybe it is.  Things are only racist if you’re offended, and I never was. Maybe I never was because the show was making a deeper comment about “Black-speak” and not making fun of it. Or maybe I’m giving HIMYM liberties that I shouldn’t. The deeper, more important question is, does the show need a regular Black character? I say no.  Here’s three reasons why.

1. I’d rather have no regular Black character on the show than a token Black character.  “Star Trek” always gets props for having a Black character as a regular member, but Uhura? Sulu?  A little UN on a space ship?  How are they not token characters?  With a white Captain and everything! (Don’t get me started).  If HIMYM had a Black character on the show, it would only be to say, “Hey, look! A Black character!”  It wouldn’t feel natural.  No one wakes up and thinks, “I need to have more brown friends.”  We get our friends through the experiences we have in our lives.  It’s not like they don’t know any Black people. Barney and Ted have dated Black women and Robin went on a date with a Black guy. The show simply understands that shoe-horning an ethnic character into the show would look and feel like they shoe-horned and ethnic character into the show.

2. “How I Met Your Mother” is a critique of singlehood.  There is the married couple that represents the opposite of being single.  There is the single woman that is afraid of relationships, the single man that is afraid of relationships and the single man who wants badly to be in a relationship.  What would a Black man or a Black woman add to that?  Nothing.  It could be interesting to see a single, Black woman and her take on being single.  Barney, however, does just fine in representing all single men, regardless of color.  Being a single, womanizing man transcends race, and I’m pretty sure the writer’s know this.

3. Name one recurring White character from “Good Times”, “The Cosby Show”, “Martin” , “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” or any number of Black sitcoms. I don’t remember seeing any, but I could be wrong.  White people didn’t belong in those shows because they were shows detailing the African American experience.  In turn, “How I Met Your Mother” is detailing the single White experience.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Adding a Black character to the show or having one in the first place, just to have one there, would probably be dishonest and, to be honest, slightly weird.  Plus, it’s not even realistic.  Here is a graph of the US labor force in 2010. 

Basically, just in the labor force, there are 9 White people for every 1 Black person.  There aren’t enough Black people in society to be a token Black person for every gang or group that hangs out at a bar.

It would be nice to have more representation on the show.  And, to be fair, Barney’s brother pulls double duty as a Black guy and a Gay guy.  But, whatever.  If there was a TV show about my life, people watching it would ask, “How come this dude hangs out mostly with White people?”  So, I mean, no one is ever really happy, are they?

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2 thoughts on “Why there are No Black Cast Members in “How I Met Your Mother”

  1. This is hilarious. But what about the sweet little fat friend on The Cosby Show, Peter? He was recurring enough that I remember him fondly – or was it just his sweat suits that made an impression on me?

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