CNN partnered with “Sesame Street” for a special town hall about racism, giving both kids and parents an opportunity to explore the current moment the nation is living through and to understand how these issues affect people.
“Coming Together: Standing Up To Racism” aired Saturday morning and left no stone unturned – discussing everything from how to fight racism when you see it and who to call when police officers are being unsafe.
The hour-long program featured “Sesame Street” characters like Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Rosita. Together, they – along with experts – answered questions submitted by families.
The event was moderated by CNN political commentator Van Jones, CNN anchor and national correspondent Erica Hill, and Big Bird.
Here are some key takeaways from the conversation.
Elmo learns about racism and protesting
As a three-year-old, Elmo may not know that much about the way systemic racism works – which can make understanding protests over the death of George Floyd difficult. Luckily, his father, Louie, was up to the challenge, explaining racism and the protests to his son.
“Racism is when people treat other people unfairly because of the way they look or the color of their skin,” Louie told Elmo. “Not all streets are like Sesame Street. On Sesame Street, we all love and respect on another. 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.”
Louie continued, “What we are seeing is people saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ They want to end racism.”
Elmo, despite his young age, understood. He wants to end racism, too, he said.
Atlanta Mayor answers the hard questions
Keisha Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, answered questions from both children and parents about why black people continue to be mistreated in society, and whether it’s too early to explain to young kids the protests occurring around the world.
“I don’t think it’s too early because we’re seeing it anyway,” she said. “They’re seeing it on TV, they’re seeing it on their iPads … I just think we have to speak to it in the context in which they’ll understand it.”
To kids, Bottoms had this advice.
“Just keep being who you are, keep loving each other and when you see someone who is doing something wrong or saying something wrong, say that it’s wrong,” she said. “Say it with love and just lead by love.”
Countering white privilege in young kids
Abby Cadabby explained her own experience seeing racism, revealing how Big Bird was once bullied for his yellow feathers and size. It wasn’t kind or fair, she said.
Jennifer Harvey, author of “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America,” and Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” spoke about white privilege and raising racially-conscious kids.
“White communities are not negatively impacted by racism, and sometimes we get unjust access to things just because we’re white, not because we deserve it,” said Harvey. “The most dangerous kind of white privilege is to think that we can sit this justice struggle out.”
Tatum discussed the variety of children’s books available for parents to read to their kids, books that unpack differences in skin color, hair texture or eye shape, and ones that even address police violence.