A Quick History of Token White Characters In Black TV Shows

Zoey Howzer from The Proud Family, anyone?

Tokenism still runs rampant in television. It mostly impacts minority characters and actors, but (believe it or not) white token characters do exist—and they have existed for decades. These stock figures typically serve as comedic relief to more central plots; in some situations, though, they get major story-lines. Whatever the case, we can’t deny the white token actor a place in TV history. In particular, these 10 holistically represent the archetype.

  • 1 Shawn McDermott, Martin (1992-1995)
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    Played by Jonathan Gries, Shawn was Martin (Martin Lawrence)’s scatterbrained WZUP co-worker from 1992-1995. (The show ended two years later.) Martin and Shawn’s strange exchanges are legend. Plus, who can forget when Shawn attempted to get Snoop Dogg a record deal? What a classic episode.

  • 2 Stanley “Bullethead” Kuznocki, The Steve Harvey Show (1996-2002)
    The WB
    William Lee Scott’s portrayal of Steve (Steve Harvey)’s mindless-but-beautiful student Bullethead—get the nickname?—is all sorts of iconic. Even more iconic is the fact casual Nickelodeon goddess Lori Beth Denberg also appeared on the show. (Two token white characters, perhaps?)

  • 3 Stevie Alison Van Lowe, The Parkers (1999-2004)
    Stevie (Jenna von Oÿ) and Kim (Countess Vaughn) defined friendship goals in the early 2000s. Jenna brought palpable warmth to her rich girl character, which could have been easily reduced to stereotypes.

  • 4 Todd Garrett, Girlfriends (2000-2008)
    Todd (Jason Pace), a white Jewish plastic surgeon, was the unexpected apple to Toni (Jill Marie Jones)’s eye. Their sometimes-rocky relationship was a plot device in the show’s earlier seasons. They had a baby named Morgan that led to nasty custody battles in the show’s sixth season.

  • 5 Zoey Howzer, The Proud Family (2001-2005)
    Zoey was the adorkable everygirl, especially compared to the rich-and-haughty LaCienega Boulevardez. Who cares if she had brown dirt under her fingernails? Zoey is (and always will be) queen.

  • 6 Greg Wuliger, Everybody Hates Chris (2005-2009)
    Vincent Martella nailed the nervous and nerdy Greg character four solid years in a row. Greg was novel not just because he was white: He’s the only character who didn’t hate Chris!

  • 7 Kelly Pitts, The Game (2006-2015)
    Kelly (Brittany Daniel) is the wife (and later ex-wife) to professional athlete Jason Pitts (Coby Bell). After this duo breaks up in the third season, Kelly gets her own reality TV show about being an athlete ex-wife. However, Jason and Kelly end up together in the end. Oh! And they have a daughter named Brittany.

  • 8 Kim Zolciak-Biermann, The Real Housewives of Atlanta (2008-2012)
    Kim was one of the original RHOA ladies, but she left the show in 2012 to star in her spin-off Don’t Be Tardy for the Wedding (which later became simply Don’t Be Tardy…). Kim was a fan favorite while on Housewives, and for good reason. Her quarrels with Queen NeNe Leakes were legend.

  • 9 Tommy, Power (2014-Present)
    If James (Omari Hardwick) is the King of Sexy on Power, then Tommy is the Prince. (And yes, these are official titles.) Don’t believe us? This shirtless photo will do the talking.

  • 10 Josh, Black-ish (2014-Present)
    Josh (Jeff Meacham) is Andre (Anthony Anderson)’s co-worker at the advertising agency. He appeared in 14 out of the 24 episodes of the show’s first season.