These are difficult and scary times, with too many calamities clamping down upon us: a pandemic, economic devastation and unemployment, civil unrest, not to mention a looming election that will decide the fate of the nation. One bright spot is the passion seen at the largely peaceful (and often deeply moving) protests, both at home and abroad, with people coming together to speak out against police brutality against people of color. It can be difficult to explain any of this to young kids, who’ve been through so much the last few months, but luckily Elmo — and his father Louie — are here to help.
“Let’s come together, all of us, no matter the color of our skin, and stand together to make this a kind and safe place to live for everyone.” @BigBIrd, @Elmo and others in the #CNNSesameStreet town hall encourage everyone to "do better." https://t.co/icV04F4FNW pic.twitter.com/YF1DLZUhQj
— CNN (@CNN) June 6, 2020
On Saturday, the Sesame Street favorite appeared on CNN with his dad, who did a segment — over different webcams, suggesting they were in different places — in which the latter educating his former on the turbulent times. Louie didn’t sugarcoat it.
The segment begins with Elmo saying he “doesn’t understand” why people have been massing together for the last 10 days, and being told they were “gathering together to protest.” “Elmo doesn’t understand,” Elmo said. “What’s a protest?” To which his father replied, “A protest is when people come together to show they are upset and disagree about something. They want to make others aware of the problem. So in protesting, people are able to share their feelings and work together to make things better.”
Louie even said he was planning to take part in one, and showed off the sign he’d made for it, which read “Love Justice Peace,” with heart and peace signs.
Elmo had more questions. “They look upset. Are the protesters upset?” he asked. Again, his dad didn’t sugarcoat it. “They are sad. And upset. And they have every right to be, Elmo,” said Louie. “People are upset because racism is a huge problem in our country.”
That’s when Elmo asked his father to explain what racism is. “Oh, racism is when people treat other people unfairly because of the way they look or the color of their skin,” his dad told him. Elmo was confused. “Elmo doesn’t understand, daddy. Elmo has friends with different types of skin. And fur too.” he said. His father was bracingly direct:
Not all streets are like Sesame Street. On Sesame Street we all love and respect one another. Across the country, people of color, especially in the black community, are being treated unfairly because of how they look, their culture, their race, and who they are. What we’re seeing is people saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ They want to end racism.
“Elmo wants to end racism, too. Elmo wants everybody to be treated fairly,” Elmo said. “How can Elmo support his friends?” His dad responded, “We can start by learning and talking about what is happening and take action.”
The reaction to the exchange went viral, cutting across generations, reaching young and older. Some were shocked to see an Elmo who, thanks to his dad, is now hip to what’s going down in our country right now.
It seems Elmo’s dad is a lot smarter than many of America’s mayors https://t.co/nIjYXAFEXW
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) June 6, 2020
Did anybody foresee the day when Elmo and Big Bird would be more articulate on the topic of racial injustice than the President of the United States?
— Gary the Pastafarian Bishop (@garydmclean) June 6, 2020
Some wondered when other children’s entertainment characters would address the protests.
Clearly, when Elmo is saying #BlackLivesMatter we have definitely turned a corner. Now my question is when are Dora, Peppa Pig going to step up? I would ask about Blue's Clues but I think we all know where he stands 😏 https://t.co/QH5iEylA1O
— Jason Johnson (@DrJasonJohnson) June 6, 2020
Parents, surely finding it difficult to explain to their kids what’s happening without upsetting them nor lying to them, praised it.
Thank you #CNNSesameStreet for helping me share why our country must end racism with my 2-year old daughter.@elmo did such a good job, she didn't look away to see my crying while she watched it.#EndRacism pic.twitter.com/N9sj1qCOk1
— Grant Stern (@grantstern) June 6, 2020
This is such a powerful video. Please watch and share with your children.
“Not all streets are like Seasame Street.”
“The protestors want to end racism.”
“Elmo wants to end racism too.”
— Rhea Boyd, MD (@RheaBoydMD) June 6, 2020
One person pointed out the tragic side of Elmo.
I feel bad for Elmo because he has been a kid for like 35 years and every day one of his friends has to explain death or racism or 9/11 to him. No wonder he’s created his own little world.
— Defunctland (@Defunctland) June 6, 2020
You can watch the full exchange in the tweet at the top of this page.