Barbara Billingsley- December 22, 1915 – October 16, 2010 RIP Mrs. Cleaver.
Starred as June Cleaver in Leave It To Beaver from 1957-1963
As a child, I can’t tell you how many times my siblings and I would fight over who would control the tv channels in our home. I was born in 1955. Our household didn’t get a TV until 1959.
Our family watched Leave it to Beaver. The Cleaver’s house was nestled in white suburbia in a fictitious town called “Mayfield.” My brothers would always snicker over Wally and the Beaver’s shenanigans, because a lot of my brother’s antics mirrored the Cleaver boys. You know, boys will be boys…
It didn’t take me and my siblings long to figure out that the entire cast of characters were all white, and that their lives were not so different from our own. The Cleaver’s household showcased a mother who did not work outside the home.
June wore sparkling pearls and heels in the kitchen. Ward worked and the boys went to school. Ward and June taught their sons values and moral, and so did my parents, and many of your parents did too. My mother and father both worked, both inside and outside the home to support our family.
We lived in segregated neighborhoods, we attended segregated schools, we got into mischief. We hurt, laughed, cried, we did our chores, we had boy/girl crushes.
The 1950’s-1960 were a time where Whites went about living their lives, separately, but mostly at the expense of inequality for Blacks and other People of color (POC) until the Civil Rights Movement.
Which leads me to the reason for this post. When I heard of the Mrs. Billingsley death, visions of teabaggers danced in my head, and I knew immediately why this mystical revelation was occurring. What? you might be asking yourself. Mrs. Cleaver= Tea Party
Bear with me here. Ever since last August during the health-care debates, a certain segment of American citizens have been screaming that they want to “TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK!”
JEEPERS, Beaver, these folks want to take our country back!
Gee GOLLY, Wally, that’s not cool, dude!
Ms. Billingsley’s role as June Cleaver was that of the quintessential mom. She was perfect, from her well-coiffed hair, pearl earrings, and well-starched apron. She lived in a pristine, all white middle class neighborhood. And for most part, all she and her family had to endure was the mischief of their two sons. Everyone loved Mrs. Cleaver! Those were the good old days.
That segment of Americans, white Americans, who are now screaming to take their country back, are longing for the days of all white neighborhoods in fictitious towns called “Mayfield,” where they do not have to contend with folks who do not look like them.
The truth is, shows like Leave it To Beaver, The Donna Read Show, and Father Knows Best, all portrayed middle class white Americans. It would appear that the Black middle class never existed, judging from the TV shows of the 1950s, but there was. And it wasn’t until the mid 80’s early 90’s when The Cosby Show appeared did America truly get a dose of reality that the Black middle class did exist. White folks devoured the show like a heaping scoop of chocolate ice cream.
Fast forward to November 4, 2008. Folks are screaming to take back their country after Barack Obama is elected the first Black President of the United States of America. And now October 16, 2010 with a approximately two weeks left before the midterm elections, an American icon dies, an icon who symbolized all that was white and right with America.
The symbology of “Mrs. Cleaver’s” death harkens a rebirth. Just as the old, the sick, worn-out body eventually dies, so does the old, sick, worn-out consciousness. I’m sure Mrs. Billingsley’s family and will miss her dearly. I’m betting they are celebrating all the good times they enjoyed with her too. And they will go on with their own lives.
For me it is all about an opportunity to move forward into a new state of consciousness, for all Americans who want to grow spiritually. It’s 2010, let us begin.