Remembering Betty White

Hiathan Nguyen

Betty White, often called “The First Lady of Television,” was a phenomenal actress and inspiration to many. White was known for her hilarious, witty, crude style of acting, which she continued through 2019. She lived to be 99 and passed away on December 31st, less than three weeks before her 100th birthday. 

White not only acted in films but also produced them. She was the first American woman to produce a sitcom—Life with Elizabeth. However, her more well-known accomplishments came from her acting career. Her role on the Mary Tyler Moore Show as the perky, bawdy, Sue Ann Nivens won her two Emmys. Additionally, she won a Golden Globe nomination and an Emmy for her iconic, internationally recognized role as Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. White’s list of awards and renowned characters goes on and on, but what’s more impressive is the positive impact her life had on the world. 

In the 1950s, White ran her own show, The Betty White Show, where she sang, acted, interviewed guests, and hosted performances. Arthur Duncan, a black tap-dancer, came to White looking for a shot at a breakthrough performance through a spot on her show. However, this time period was brimming with racism. 1954, the same year Duncan came to White asking to star on her show, was the year the Supreme Court voted to ban segregated schools. White could’ve decided not to support Duncan, and the consequences would have been slim—despite the Supreme Court’s vote, segregation was still widely accepted and prevalent in other places. However, White gladly let Duncan on her show. She received a lot of backlash for her decision, and the broadcasting company threatened to take The Betty White Show off-air if she didn’t get rid of Duncan. But Betty White, being the stubborn, amazing woman she was, told the company, “I’m sorry, but, you know, he stays. Live with it.”

Duncan starred on The Betty White Show multiple times after his first appearance, and White continued to host black performers. Her defiance of racist norms notably contributed to the desegregation of television. 

Although White is no longer with us, her legacy will certainly live on—not only through her work but also through the impact she had on the world. 

If you’ve never watched Betty, here are some clips from YouTube:

Census Taker vs. Old Lady – SNL

Beer Pong with Betty White | Fallon Flashback (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)

The Golden Girls – The Best of Rose

Betty White Monologue: Facebook – Saturday Night Live

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/12/31/betty-white-arthur-duncan-racism/

https://apnews.com/article/betty-white-dead-golden-girls-television-5818585387f6e5b4d5ea55ac380118aa

Image credit:

https://ew.com/tv/2017/01/26/betty-white-mary-tyler-moore/