With the arrival of the new television lineup a few weeks ago came a slew of new shows that eased their way into my viewing queue. One that particularly caught my eye was ABC’s historical drama “Pan Am,” which follows the lives of stewardesses and airline pilots during the iconic era of flight in the 1960s. Hoping it would be somewhat similar to the airline nostalgia found in the film, “Catch Me If You Can,” I tuned in. Not surprisingly, the show glamorized the innocuous, joyful escapades of the characters, devoid of any major worries, including small quips of romance and mystery along the way. The thing that did surprise me was the complete lack of blacks portrayed, except for a few extras in the background.

Flipping around on other TV channels, I realized that most major network shows (excluding law and criminal genres), are void of any central black characters, especially in historical fiction. For some shows such as “The Tudors,” it’s more understandable, seeing as the slave trade hadn’t happened at full-scale yet. However for others, the opportunity is obviously there to include black culture and society.

Networks, producers and scriptwriters often fear backlash from viewers regarding the political correctness of minority characters, so regularly they avoid including them at all. In addition, most of America probably doesn’t want to remember how horribly blacks were treated, essentially from the beginning of our society. To them, the cultural aspect is shameful and embarrassing, and they would rather forget or ignore it altogether because it’s over and “in the past.”

The problem is that it’s not over. Sure, blacks are treated significantly better than they were a century or even 50 years ago. But racism is still present in today’s world. Our actions in the past are still very much a part of who we are as a society and show how far we’ve come. To ignore black culture or characters is to ignore an important part of America’s history. It’s like only getting one piece of the puzzle. It probably wouldn’t be PC to show blatant discrimination or racial violence, but we still need to know that it happened. These cultural barriers shaped prominent leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and helped society realize the difference between right and wrong.

The shows that do represent aspects of black culture are mostly comedic sitcoms, which rely heavily on the use of inaccurate black stereotypes and language (think “House of Payne”). One of the only accurate examples that comes to mind is the CW’s “Everybody Hates Chris,” which described what growing up in the 1980s was like as seen through the eyes of an average, middle-class black kid.

Personally, I would love to see television dramas based on the Underground Railroad, the Civil Rights Era or the beginning of the blues and jazz movement. Other minority groups have great opportunities to be represented as well, such as Native Americans, Hispanics and bi-racial folk, especially since in 2009 minority groups made up 35 percent of the U.S. and over 50 percent of the population in four states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

America’s television networks need to stop decorating the past. There’s always another side to each story.