Jaleel White is one of the most successful child-actors of the 90s, having played perhaps one of the most iconic characters in television history, Steve Urkel. He was a pop culture phenomenon that won over the hearts of families around the world, on the ABC sitcom “Family Matters''. He became known for his signature catchphrase “Did I do that?” and his ever-entertaining “Urkel dance”. Urkel’s massive popularity led to him having his own merchandise, including posters, pins, t-shirts and his own doll.
Jaleel White has appeared in several major films and television shows outside of “Family Matters'' in his nearly 4-decade acting career. It’s hard to believe that someone as important to television and film as Jaleel, has never been acknowledged by the academy.
In 2018, the Emmys aired a sketch with SNL star Michael Che called “Reparation Emmys” where he jokingly gave awards to Black actors, White being one of them. Sadly this spoof did nothing to make up for the 36-years worth of snubs to one of television's biggest icons.
Aside from still being a working actor in Hollywood, White spends his days hosting a podcast called Ever After with Jaleel White, where he interviews fellow child stars of the 90s.
He recently spoke with Yahoo about how he was treated differently from other child stars of the time, specifically his white peers like Wonder Years star Fred Savage or Blossom's Mayim Bialik. "You were made to feel African-American. 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."
The beauty of White’s podcast is that he gets to have candid discussions with other child-stars of the 90s about the double standard between Black and White child stars. For the first time, it gets to be acknowledged instead of swept under the rug. He references his episode with Mayim Balik in the Yahoo interview.
"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 spoke about how it was a lot harder for Black actors to get the award show nod back then. He spoke about how the few times that Black actors did win major academy awards, it was seen as a moment to be shared with Black families.
“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 Would win or Whoopi would win, those were 'Pick up the phone and call the whole family' moments." White said
The advent of social media has given a voice to Black actors who have long been snubbed at major award shows. Just five years ago, the “ Oscars so white” movement garnered widespread attention from Twitter and it was the first time that the academy had been held accountable for their obvious bias.