As a white child in the early 1970s, I experienced little of what the black (or brown or other) community has endured for decades. I had been too young to understand the news broadcasts of Civil Rights marches, demonstrations on college campuses, assassination of civil rights leaders, and rioting. The country no longer drafted young men -many of color – for the Vietnam War. But that entire decade, in contrast to the period of COVID “economic shutdown” we are hopefully exiting, was hard for everyone. It was particularly hard for the communities of color. Yet I wouldn’t learn much about diversity until I joined the military after high school. Television in the 1970s was only just becoming a medium to expose people to diversity and sensitive topics.
Children’s television, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and then Sesame Street were the two most influential in teaching children not just an introduction to the three Rs (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic), but dealing with emotions and life experiences that may have been confusing or frightening. For fifty years, Sesame Street has continued to teach children about equality, diversity, and respecting oneself and others. It endures because it does not shy away from topics that cause fear and confusion among children. On June 6, 2020, CNN and Sesame Street held a video town hall to discuss racism. If our world is to heal our children and grandchildren will help stop the cycle of hate, fear, and violence.
Watch the town hall here.