He died on Saturday, August 9, 2008 of complications from pneumonia. Mac is best known for his work on “The Bernie Mac Show.” In the sitcom, the professional comedian Bernie Mac and his wife, Wanda, take in his drug-addicted sister’s children: 5-year-old Bryana, 8-year-old Jordan and the headstrong 13-year-old Vanessa, whom Mac refers to as the Evil One. With the success of this show, Mac was thrust into the pantheon of memorable TV black dads that include Cliff Huxtable, James Evans, and Philip Banks.
As a TV dad, Mac chose to bring an edgier portrayal of fatherhood. He epitomized the aging black father who was beset by marital demands, nosy neighbors and, most of all, today’s back-talking, undisciplined kids. He cursed, yelled, threatened to “Bust heads open until the white meat shows,” and was not a believer in time-out or the naughty chair.
I must admit that I was not a fan of “The Bernie Mac Show” when it first debuted in 2001 (the same year my daughter was born). To me, he was a loud-mouthed, fake Robin Harris. Besides, I couldn’t even consider yelling at my little princess in such a manner. But as my daughter grew up and we added two more children to the brood, I began to relate more and more to Mac’s parenting philosophies.
Where I relate to Mac’s character most is his effort to raise black children in predominantly white suburbs. Just like Mac’s character, I send my children to a private school. We also attend an integrated church. I worry that they won’t have the same connection to the black community that I did or that they will become alienated because of their race. We teach our kids to love everyone and try our best to downplay race to the extent that we can. But we also teach them to have pride in their culture and to celebrate it at every opportunity. Mac showed me that I was not alone in my concern and that made me feel a lot better.
I also relate to the way Mac loves the children. I often want to pull off my belt and tear into my children’s behinds, but the other 90% of the time, I want to hug them and never let them go. Mac was the same way. Despite his blustery personality, he always softened to reveal a hapless affection for his kids. His eyes lit up when he saw, “Baby Girl,” even “Evil Nessa” was able to pull his heartstrings from time to time, and Jordan sometimes managed to get an approving nod from Mac.
Although Mac, was not the perfect father, she showed us all how to be better fathers despite our imperfections.
Question: What is your favorite Bernie Mac memory?