CNN and Sesame Street teamed up to present a virtual town hall, Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism. The show has been recorded and can be seen on CNN’s page. CNN has also compiled a valuable page, with sections for each age group: How to Talk to Your Child About Protests and Racism.
Why Is There Racism and What Can Children and Their Parents Do?
“I’m hoping for a better change in people to make sure everybody is kind to one another,” said Laila, a 7-year-old girl. Abby Cadabby agreed. Gabrielle added she wanted to be treated with kindness and respect.
Then, there was Elmo, who asked what a protest is. His dad explained that people make signs to make things better. “A protest is when people come together to show they are upset and disagree with something. They want to make others aware of the problem,” he said. “With protest, people are able to share their feelings and then work together and make things better. The protesters are sad… and they have every right to be.” “People are upset because racism is a huge problem in our country.”
“Not all streets are like Sesame Street,” explains Elmo’s dad. “But on other streets people are treated unfairly because of the way they look. They are saying enough is enough with racism.”
Van Jones, explained how African Americans are often treated differently by people in society, especially some police officers. Big Bird joined in, but he had to learn that standing up means making changes. A boy named Solomon asked why racism is still a concern when the Civil Rights Era was so long ago. Van explained that racism has been around for a very long time. Stella, Abram, and Saige wanted to know how kids like them can help stop racism. Erica Hill
Keisha Lance Bottoms, Mayor of Atlanta. First, she explained that when you see someone say something that is wrong, say that it is wrong. A boy, Sean, asked, “If black people have contributed so much, why are they still put down?” Van and the mayor explained that, sometimes, people put others down when they are feeling badly about themselves. “You can’t treat people the way people the way they treat you. You have to treat them the way you want to be treated,” she added.
A girl named Anaya asked why not “All Lives Matter”? Mayor Bottoms said that there is a history of black people in this country that’s unlike any other race. We were brought to this country as slaves. We must correct misconceptions.
Cortni, a mother of two, asked whether is it too early to explain this to her very young sons? They want to know why she keeps crying. Mayor Bottoms replied, “I don’t think it’s too early to have this conversation,” explaining that we need to put it in a context they can understand. And they should be allowed to feel the anger and sadness they see in their parents.”
Rosita asked, “Why do we all have different skin colors?” Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, Pediatrician. Explained the role of melanin in skin color. Later, Jeanette Betancourt, of Sesame Street, “It’s important to talk about how people are treated unfairly because of their skin color. Nobody should be treated that way. Children and families are taking action together.”
Kyle wants to be a neurosurgeon when he grows up. “Can I operate on racist brains to change them?” Dr. he asks. Garris responded that as doctors, you care for everyone. By healing people’s hearts now, you will be able to heal their bodies later.”
“Children will see that our actions are more important than our words,” said Dr. Betancourt.
Xavier asked the same question as Solomon earlier, saying that Nana talked about protesting in the 1960s. “And here were are again,” said Gordon and Maria, saying marching and protesting for change, so we won’t have to confront racism again. “We’ve got to change the course of history, now”
Empathy and Action
Abby Cadabby was back to say she said she is upset at how people are treated around the country. She cited her friend, Big Bird, who was bullied because of his yellow feathers. “You are showing empathy,” said Van, explaining the word. Van said that not only did Abby show empathy, she also took action. “That’s what we need people to do around racism.”
“Standing up and acting are the steps we all must to do,” said Erica.
Alliah, a mom, asked about the balance of informing our children and protecting them and not burdening them with additional anxiety. Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, a psychologist, explained that what is fair and unfair is something even young children can readily understand.
Christa, mom, asked about the very important topic of white privilege. Dr Jennifer Harvey, author of Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America, said that white privilege is that white people in American society have many unjust benefits, just because we are white, not because we deserve them. “The most dangerous kind of white privilege is that we can just sit this struggle out.”
There are many books for children on the topic of racism for parents to read with their children in an age-appropriate way. Dr. Tatum recommends Socialjusticebooks.org.
Then, it was time for Elmo to introduce his friend, a girl named Saniya. “What do I do when I encounter racism?” Dr. Harvey says all children need to learn how to deal with racism – black kids if they are a target of it or white kids to call it out. “Learn that we can all learn to be anti-racist together,” she said. That also goes for other types of bigotry, such as that aimed at Asian Americans, as we have witnessed in this age of COVID-19.
Our children learn about antiracism from us. We need be in action. “Our children learn anti-racism from us,” said Dr. Harvey.
Big Bird presented his friend, Keedron Bryant, Gospel singer, sang a song about how he feels. “I Just Want to Live.” He wants all of us to live life. Van – “We’re counting on your generation to make things better.”
Keedron Bryant: “I feel we could all change the world.”
Many of us have seen that uplifting video of little two little boys, one black, one white – Maxwell and Finnegan – running to each other.
Children expressed fear about how they will be treated by an officer. Charles Ramsey, former Philly Police Commissioner, explained how there are some police officers who are acting badly. We must make sure that no police officer, no one, should be treated differently because of the color of their skin. Tell a grownup if you see an officer doing wrong. The police should be there to serve and protect.
A’Dream – will the revolution continue after the cameras are rolling. Van – “This movement will go on as long as we expand who we care about.”
“I can do better!” That’s what the protests are about, for us and for our country.