During the 1990s, “Family Matters” was one of TV’s biggest sitcoms, and nerdy Steve Urkel its breakout character.
Yet Jaleel White, who played the Urkel until the show ended its run in 1998, is now revealing the shoddy treatment he experienced as a Black child actor.
In an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, White explained how he felt treated differently than his white contemporaries, such as fellow child stars Fred Savage of “Wonder Years” or “Blossom” star Mayim Bialik.
“You were made to feel African-American,” White said. “Fred Savage was always invited to the Emmys; he was always treated like a darling during this time. I was never invited to the Emmys, even to present. I was pretty much told that I would be wasting my time to even submit myself for nomination.”
White has been discussing his history as a former child star on his recently launched podcast, “Ever After”, in which he speaks with other onetime child actors about their experiences in show business.
“Go listen to that episode with Mayim, because she brought the pain when it came to the honesty about the differences of being a white child actor and a Black child actor, particularly back then,” White said of the institutionalized racism he experienced.
“It was so normalized — you just shrugged and said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s for the white kids.’ When a Black person would win anything — never at the Emmys but at least on the Oscars side — if Denzel [Washington] would win or Whoopi [Goldberg] would win, those were ‘Pick up the phone and call the whole family’ moments.”