Lately I've taken a mild interest in 80s pop culture, and from my very superficial look I was surprised to see more black actors in movies, tv shows, and commercials of that time than I'm used to seeing today.
One example: Miami Vice, which aired in the second half of 1980s had a white and a black guy as protagonists. I was genuinely surprised by this because, honestly, I think this would be considered unusual, maybe even radical in any mainstream show today that's not overtly targeted at a black demographic. Instead, what we usually see is the token black guy (Jesse L. Martin, Ice T) in an otherwise white cast. Even a show like Chicago PD, a show about a city that's whose population and police force is something like a third black--even a show like that still has the minimum required one token black guy and that's it.
Another example: Looking at sitcoms, I think I can name more black sitcoms from the 80s and 90s (Cosby, Fresh Prince, Moesha, Martin, Moesha, Family Matters, Sister Sister) than contemporary ones (Blackish..., and that's it?). I admit that this list probably says more about me than about the state of TV. I haven't kept up with sitcoms. And, who knows? maybe the 80s and 90s were the golden age of sitcoms and they've since fallen in popularity and so there's just fewer sitcoms overall, and hence fewer black sitcoms. Fine. But still, that's a precipitous drop.
I'm not trying to start a flame war, or start a discussion about the merits of representing minorities on screen. I'm just looking for thoughtful answers on 1) whether this pattern of higher representation of black actors in the 80s is real or spurious and 2) if real, what could cause this paradoxical drop in representation despite the conventional narrative of racial progress. References would be appreciated.