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Amid nationwide protests for racial justice and heightened racial awareness, kids’ brands and shows have tackled issues of race and racism in an effort to educate their young viewers about the current social climate.
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd in the summer, families may have found it difficult to explain what was happening across the country to their kids while school wasn’t in session. Some parents may have avoided the topic of race altogether, worried about exposing children to serious issues too early or not fully understanding the issue themselves. Yet for some families, conversations about racism, specifically what to do around the police, are essential.
Studies have shown that preschool-age children can show signs of racial bias, both implicit and explicit bias. Learning how to talk to children about racism while they are young is an important step in curbing racist behavior later in life.
Here’s how kids’ shows and brands have talked about racism with their young viewers:
In partnership with CNN, longtime favorite kids show “Sesame Street” tackled racial injustice in their townhall “Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism” in June.
“Not all streets are like Sesame Street,” Elmo’s dad said while explaining the nationwide protests. “On Sesame Street, we all love and respect one another. But across the country, people of color, especially in the Black community, are being treated unfairly because of how they look, their culture, race and who they are. What we are seeing is people saying ‘Enough is enough.’ They want to end racism.”
“Not all streets are like Sesame Street. … What we are seeing is people saying 'enough is enough.' They want to end racism.”@Elmo’s dad Louie explains why people are protesting across the US. https://t.co/icV04F4FNW #CNNSesameStreet pic.twitter.com/1efrMAzZ8V
— CNN (@CNN) June 6, 2020
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, former Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey, and other experts joined the Sesame Street Muppets Abby Cadabby, Elmo, and his dad, and Rosita to help answer kids’ questions about racism and showing children how to appropriately address issues of bullying and bias.
Social media praised the town hall for a more informative conversation on race than other news outlets, helping both children and adults alike in understanding racial bias and how to foster greater empathy in their everyday daily lives.
Watch “Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism” on CNN’s website.
PBS KIDS Talk About: Race and Racism premiered October 9, featuring conversations between real children and parents discussing race and racial-justice related topics. The half-hour program included content from PBS favorites like Daniel Tiger, Arthur, and Xavier Riddle.
“PBS KIDS believes kids are capable of understanding and talking through tough, but important issues with the adults in their lives – something that has been core to our mission for the last 50 years,” said Lesli Rotenberg, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, Children’s Media and Education, PBS. “Through the PBS KIDS Talk About: Race and Racism special, our goal is to Support parents in talking with their children about race, anti-Black racism in our country, and how to be actively anti-racist. Parents have increasingly asked us for these resources, and we hope that this special will provide a helpful starting point in whatever way they choose to have these conversations with their children.”
PBS’s “Arthur” also included a scene where Arthur and Buster saw a clip online of someone getting hurt “just because they were Black.” Through a conversation with their lunch lady, Mrs. MacGrady, the characters learned various ways to fight racism and how to speak up when someone is being treated unfairly.
Watch the full special “PBS KIDS Talk About: Race and Racism.”
In a YouTube episode of “Barbie Vlogs,” Barbie spoke with her friend Nikki about white privilege, racial bias, and how to be a true ally.
With over 9.6 million subscribers, the Barbie page on YouTube is currently the most-watched channel directed at young girls on the online platform, CNN reported. The clip of the episode that was shared on Twitter garnered over 4 million views, with people applauding how the characters called out racism by name and how Barbie actively listened and validated her friend’s struggles with racial bias.
Watch the full episode on YouTube.
In an hour-long special, hosted by Alicia Keys, Nickelodeon’s Nick News amplified the voices and experiences of Black children across the country. The special featured the co-founders of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, answering questions from real children about racism. Several celebrities, including Simone Biles, Chance the Rapper, Kevin Hart, and Naomi Campbell, shared their own stories during the special as well.
The common observation is that “kids are like sponges,” constantly absorbing the information around them. How they act on this information is greatly affected by the figures of authority in their life including messaging from the media and adults.
“Kids have a hardwired, innate sense of fairness,” Francie Latour, who co-directs Wee the People, a Boston-based social-justice project for kids between the ages of 4 and 12, told The Atlantic. “It’s the job of adults in kids’ lives to connect that strong sense of fairness to issues of justice in the world.”
Read our coverage of the fight for racial justice across the country and why racism and the killings of Black Americans is a public health crisis.
Sign this petition to demand justice for Walter Wallace Jr.
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