Recently, CNN teamed up with Sesame Street for a Town Hall show to discuss racism. While it’s difficult to discuss such a weighty topic with kids, it’s certainly important. After all, today’s children are the potential racists, bullies, and killers of tomorrow.
Or they could be the change that current generations are so desperate to see.
The show began with Elmo and his father talking about the current protests in the simplest of terms. No surprise, there were a lot of “Why?” questions. Why are they protesting? Why isn’t everyone treated equally? Why do people dislike others who are a different colour?
Unfortunately, the “why’s” never seem to end for a child. Or for adults. But Sesame Street helped kids talk about it. And it’s a start.
However, adults don’t seem to want this conversation. A conversation involves hearing other people’s beliefs, misinformation, personal experiences, and frustrations regardless of whether you agree or not.
Remember, listening to “the other side” does not mean condoning it. Instead, it empowers you with facts and ammunition to make your own point.
Recently, QB Drew Brees renewed his condemnation of players who protested racial injustice by taking a knee during the National Anthem. He was immediately labelled “racist.” End of conversation.
But there was more. Instead of shutting him down, Brees’ critics could have asked “Why?” And they would have heard him say he felt it disrespected his family members who fought wars for American freedom.
They could have then shown him that his family’s sacrifice was disrespected when an unarmed black man was shot while jogging. Or asked him what those soldiers would think of their legacy when police today demanded ID from black youths like the Jews in 1940’s Poland who had to carry identification papers.
We have to understand each other’s side – right or wrong – in order to move ahead. But who wants to risk it? Some celebrities are using their star-power to jumpstart that conversation. And it’s made them targets for their own past infractions.
911 star, Ryan Guzman had to apologize for old texts between friends. Glee’s Lea Michelle had to defend her bad behaviour on-set years ago. Even the beloved Ellen DeGeneres was criticized for using the term “people of colour” while calling for racial equality.
So after trying to be leaders and saying “Let’s do better,” even those with the best of intentions have to apologize, promising to “listen more and talk less.” Good idea.
Except NHL Penguins captain, Sidney Crosby, was recently criticized for NOT using his position to make a statement. So a white guy from Canada stayed silent on the subject of black inequality in America. And talking less got him in trouble too.
Look, everyone can do better. But in order to do so, we have to be open to each other’s truth. We can ask “Why?” but we need to be willing to hear the answers without shutting others down.
And if the answers aren’t good enough, just keep asking “Why?” After all, it works for our kids.