The implications of these studies extend beyond the issue of homosexuality and bias. For example, if you are white and you make a black friend, your prejudice is likely to diminish. And the same thing happens if you make faux black friends with the characters on The Cosby Show or Everybody Hates Chris. All of this research adds up to a surprising possibility: fiction characters from Will and Jack, to the big screen characters played by Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington, to the protagonists of novels like Roots and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, may have improved the lot of American minorities as much as direct political action has.
Stories change us, and through us, they change the world. In the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln greeted Harriet Beecher Stowe at the White House, saying, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.” Lincoln went a little far in his flattery, but historians agree that Uncle Tom’s Cabin, exerted a momentous impact on American culture, inflaming passions that helped bring on the most terrible war in our history.
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