On Saturday, CNN’s Van Jones and Erica Hill made an appearance on Sesame Street for a new special, Coming Together: Standing up to Racism, which featured a group of experts as well as a few beloved characters, who addressed the topic of racism and how to fight against it.
“Is it safe for me to go outside, and will a police officer harm me because of the color of my skin?” a 7-year-old girl named Lila, asked, while a 7-year-old boy named Marvin added, “If a police officer is supposed to serve and protect people, why would he hurt me because of the color of my skin?”
“We got so many questions like that, it’s so heartbreaking,” Van Jones said, who looked over to former Washington, D.C., Police Chief Charles Ramsey, to address the topic in more depth.
And while Ramsey acknowledged that police officers “are there to help…the reality is people are out there demonstrating right now because there are a few police officers that don’t always act the way we’d like them to act and they don’t need to be police officers.”
He then explained that if they ever see an officer doing “something that’s not right,” it is important to immediately “let a grown-up know.”
And when asked by 9-year-old Paityn, whether he thought Floyd’s death would “change the way people behave when they encounter black men like my dad,” the former police chief said that he was hopeful about the future.
“That’s an excellent question and I certainly hope so. We don’t often remember that it doesn’t take much to really change the world. I think about what happened back in the 1950s where there was a black woman on the bus one day who refused to give up her seat to a white man. That led to the Civil Rights Movement. And it was because of the Civil Rights Movement that one day I grew up to police chief in Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital,” Ramsey said.
“One thing can change the world and I hope the death of Mr. Floyd, which should never have happened, but I would hope that his death is not in vain,” he continued. “We can change the world, and you young people are gonna be the ones to do it.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms advised children in another segment that one of the best ways to stop racism is to lead by example.
“Keep being who you are. Keep loving each other. And when you see someone who’s doing something wrong or saying something wrong, say that it’s wrong,” she said.
“Make sure that when your friends sometimes do things they shouldn’t do that you say to them, that’s not right and you shouldn’t do it. And say it with love.”
In response to a 9-year-old who asked why black people have been treated so terribly over the years when they have contributed so much to the country, the mayor admitted that was something “we’ve been asking ourselves for generations.”
“I don’t know if we’ll ever have the answer to that, but just like Martin Luther King had a dream for his four children…we have to continue to dream and hope and work,” Bottoms said.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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