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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Coming Together: Standing Up To Racism is a TV special aired in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the protests it inspired. It's generally aimed at kids preschool age and up, but younger kids may need more guidance from parents. Sesame Street characters explain concepts like racism, protests, and speaking out against unfairness in age-appropriate language. An equal amount of air time is aimed at parents, giving advice about how to have hard discussions with their kids around racism in the United States. The special doesn’t shy away from talking about tough stuff when it comes to race. While the language isn't specific or explicit, kids and adults do acknowledge police violence against Black people. Parents and kids are encouraged to watch this conversation-fostering special together.
What's the story?
This special originally aired less than two weeks after George Floyd’s death, while Black Lives Matter protests were happening daily across the United States. CNN anchors Van Jones and Erica Hill host the show along with Sesame favorites like Big Bird, Elmo, and Abby Cadabby. The puppets explain concepts to preschoolers through short sketches. For example: Elmo learns what racism is and why people are protesting, then makes a sign to bring to a protest. Abby talks about a time that Big Bird was bullied because he was yellow and big, and how she felt empathy for Big Bird, tried to make him feel better, and told an adult what happened. Real kids and adults from around the United States ask questions via video, and various child psychologists and special guests like Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former D.C. police chief Charles Ramsay answer their questions. The content is aimed at helping kids understand racism and guiding grown-ups’ anti-racist parenting strategies.
Is it any good?
Sesame Street has tackled a lot of hard subjects in its 50+ year history, and here it handles the topic of racism admirably. The town hall-style format, with its video messages from kids and parents across the United States, inspires empathy and connection with viewers. The puppets do a fantastic job of breaking down abstract concepts like race in a way young kids can understand. The CNN anchors and grown-up experts answer questions in an open and honest way, and encourage parents to be similarly vulnerable with their own children. They acknowledge the terrible legacy of racism against Black people in the United States, but take care to not give young viewers more information than they can developmentally handle. The special doesn’t gloss over the sadness and fear many kids (and grown-ups) feel, but it also gives examples of concrete actions kids can take to fight racism.
Younger kids will be engaged by the familiar characters and the real kids that call into the special, but may lose interest in the segments more geared towards parents. There’s a lot of talking, and none of the songs and fun visuals preschoolers typically see in their TV shows. Older kids can still learn a lot and may feel comforted by hearing hard information from familiar characters. Parents should expect to feel emotionally and intellectually challenged, and for this special to inspire tough conversations with your kids. This town hall on racism should absolutely be watched by kids and their grown-ups together.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Black Lives Matter protests and why they're happening. How do current events make your family feel? Where do you think those feelings come from?
Lots of kids in this special asked really good questions. Do you have any questions after watching this show? Who can you ask?
Why do people have different skin colors? How are you treated differently because of the way you look (positively or negatively)? Why have Black people been treated unfairly in the United States?
What are some actions families can take to fight racism?
The people on this show talk about having empathy (caring about how other people feel) and integrity (taking action to fight for what is fair). How can you demonstrate these character strengths in your own life?
- Premiere date: June 6, 2020
- Cast: Van Jones, Matt Vogel, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Sonia Manzano, Roscoe Orman, Erica Hill, Ryan Dillon, Tyler Bunch, Carmen Osbahr
- Network: CNN
- Genre: Educational
- Topics: Activism
- Character strengths: Empathy, Integrity
- TV rating: NR
- Available on: Streaming
- Last updated: June 27, 2020
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