Sesame Street introduced viewers to two Black muppets this week for a special series on racial justice. The classic children’s program released a three-minute clip entitled “Explaining Race” on Tuesday (March 23) where 5-year-old Wesley Walker and his father, Elijah have a conversation with Elmo on race while on a stroll at a park.
The clip was a part of “The ABCs of Racial Literacy” series produced by the Sesame Street brand along with its “Coming Together” initiative on racial justice.
Though Wesley and Elijah aren’t the franchise’s first characters of color, they were reportedly introduced for “Explaining Race” exclusively. So far, they’re not slated to appear in the television broadcasts, but the character of Wesley’s mom, Naomi, is in development according to a report by Time Magazine and would appear in a segment to come in the series.
The purpose of the new characters is to talk about race on the show directly and clearly for young viewers. The show has previously introduced a diverse range of characters including one who is on the autism spectrum, another who experienced homelessness, and one that has a parent who is incarcerated.
“Children are not colorblind –– not only do they first notice differences in race in infancy, but they also start forming their own sense of identity at a very young age,” Jeanette Betancourt, a senior vice president at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces the show, said in a statement on Tuesday (March 23). “‘The ABCs of Racial Literacy’ is designed to foster open, age-appropriate conversations among families and support them in building racial literacy,’ the statement says.
“By encouraging these much-needed conversations through ‘Coming Together,’ we can help children build a positive sense of identity and value the identities of others,” Betancourt added.
In the last year, Sesame Street has produced programming on the coronavirus pandemic and racial justice movements, including answering submitted questions about the Black Lives Matter movement during their “Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism” in June of 2020.
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