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Sesame Street new Black characters

Source: Zach Hyman / Sesame Workshop

Sesame Street is tackling the topic of race and diversity as part of their commitment to educating children on acceptance and inclusion following the social unrest that has evolved over the last year.  Their new initiative introduces two Black characters to help navigate the topic in the sincerest way possible: 5-year old Wesley Walker and his father Elijah.

According to Huff Post, the muppets appear in a three-minute clip, titled “Explaining Race,” capturing the father-son duo enjoying an afternoon stroll when Elmo intercepts them to discuss their Black appearance.  Elijah uses autumn leaves as a metaphor to explain racial differences, “When people of all colors come together, we stand strong, like this tree.” 

Bradley Freeman Jr., the puppeteer behind Wesley Walker, gave more insight into his character to TIME magazine.  “[Wes is] very imaginative, he’s very fun. He’s always trying to help his friends and make sure that they feel safe and that they feel loved and that they can feel strong in their own skin. The more I perform him, the more I get to know him.”  

He added, “Sometimes he gets a little lost in his own emotions because he comes from a family that’s very big on communicating how they feel—he’s able to communicate, but he’s also 5 years old. So sometimes things overwhelm him, and he can be angry or sad. So that’s where he really relies on his dad and his friends to make sure that he can come to the best solution possible.”

“Explaining Race” is part of the legendary show’s “ABCs of Racial Literacy” digital series launched along with their “Coming Together” campaign. It’s a strategy Sesame Street is using to “dismantle” racial injustice by “helping children understand what racism is, and how it hurts people.” 

“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,” said Jeanette Betancourt, a senior vice president at Sesame Workshop, in a statement on Tuesday. “‘The ABCs of Racial Literacy’ is designed to foster open, age-appropriate conversations among families and support them in building racial literacy.”

“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,” she added.  

This is a great way to approach the topic in the most age-appropriate way. Hopefully, problematic racists won’t boycott the show for challenging their backward ideology.  It doesn’t take much these days.  

Anyway, watch the full clip of “Explaining Race” below. 

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