Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism
We watched the CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall before we posted the link and recommended it to our patients and our families. We think it has good information for all age groups and is worth a look!
CNN's Van Jones and Erica Hill host this teleconference-style town hall meeting and are joined throughout the show by Elmo, Big Bird, Abby, and Rosita - Sesame Street characters your kids know and trust - to help explain racism and how we can all come together to fight discrimination.
Part 1 begins with Elmo talking to his father, Louie, about the protests. Elmo asks, “What is a protest?” “What is racism?” and “What can we do?” Louie answers in simple, age-appropriate language and this short segment may be enough for sensitive toddlers and preschoolers. It’s basic, honest information from characters young children love.
Van Jones and Erica Hill are then joined by mother of four, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. With a little help from Big Bird, they answer questions from parents and children from all over the country. Topics range from slavery to Black Lives Matter to prayer to Dr. Martin Luther King. They also have some great advice that we all need to be reminded of sometimes, like the classic “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” They encourage children to use their voice, speak up with love, and lead by example to combat injustice. And, when kids are scared or angry we should allow them to feel and express their emotions while we simply listen.
Also in Part 1, Jones and Hill speak with Dr. Nia Heard-Garris a Pediatrician with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Minority Health, Equity & Inclusion Chair at the American Academy of Pediatrics, plus Jeanette Betancourt Senior VP, U.S. Social Impact at Sesame Workshop. Dr. Heard-Garris fields questions ranging from “Why do people have different skin colors?” to “Can I operate on racist brains to change them?” from a 6-year-old future neurosurgeon! Ms. Betancourt encourages parents to talk honestly about racism with even very young children because they already recognize race and identity. These can be hard conversations but even more importantly we, as parents, must model empathy and inclusion because our actions mean more than our words.
Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D. a psychologist and President Emeritus, Spelman College, and Jennifer Harvey, Ph.D. a Religion Professor at Drake University join Van Jones and Erica Hill to define and discuss empathy, inclusion and white privilege. They remind parents that racism can be based on eye shape or hair texture, not exclusively skin color, so we should “celebrate the rainbow of human diversity.” Some tools for parents are books that identify differences warmly and inclusively, plus families can role-play how to interrupt discriminatory behavior that they may encounter or experience.
Keedron Bryant, a 12-year-old gospel singer from Jacksonville is featured at the end of Part 2. His song, “I Just Want To Live,” was inspired by the last moments of George Floyd’s life. The song has gone viral with praise from former President Barack Obama and LeBron James and led to appearances on “Good Morning America” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Don’t think that’s the end! Part 3 is labeled “Viral Video Child Stars Unite!” Charles Ramsey, former Philadelphia Police Commissioner and former Washington DC Police Chief does an amazing job fielding tough questions from kids! “Will a police officer harm me because of my skin color?” “Who do we call when the police are being unsafe?” “Can George Floyd’s death really change the way that people behave when they encounter black men like my dad?” It’s difficult to hear children asking these questions but this is the moment for change!
The show ends with the affirmation “We can do better! We must do better! We will do better!” It’s a powerful ending to an honest analysis of systemic racism in our country.