Sesame Street Introduces Two Black Muppets To Encourage Racial Literacy For Kids

by Erica Gerald Mason
Originally Published: 
Sesame Street Workshop/YouTube

Meet the new Muppets: 5-year-old Wes and his father Elijah

Sesame Workshop, the juggernaut behind Sesame Street, released new videos to support families in speaking to their kiddos about race and racism. The ABCs of Racial Literacy is part of Coming Together, Sesame Workshop’s continuing program dedicated to racial justice. The tentpole programming is part of Sesame Street’s much-lauded desire to be relevant for modern children, which means not shying away from topic like autism and addiction.

In the new video, Wes and Elijah explain the concepts of melanin and race to Elmo.

“Elmo wants to know why Wes’ skin is brown,” the ‘lil red Muppet asks as the group checks out leaves in the park. “I know why, Elmo! My mom and dad told me, it’s because of melanin, right Dad?” Wes answers.

“That’s right,” Elijah says, adding, “Melanin is something that we each have inside our bodies that makes the outside of our bodies the skin color that it is. It also gives us our eye and our hair color.”

“The color of our skin is an important part of who we are but we should all know that it’s okay that we all look different in so very many ways,” he says.

“At Sesame Workshop, we look at every issue through the lens of a child. 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,” Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President, Sesame Workshop said in a press release.

“‘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.”

The Sesame Workshop recently commissioned a study which found for children ages 6-11 and their parents, racism was the most pressing social issue for nearly half the kids sampled with racism more common in responses of Black children. Most parents were comfortable with children learning about race and prejudice through media, books, or school, yet only 23% of parents said that they had available resources which would them prepare for talks with their little one. The new ABCs of Racial Literacy resources attempts to fill a need for parents and caregivers as they engage in discussions with their youngsters about race and discrimination.

“Sesame Workshop has always stood for diversity, inclusion, equity, and kindness. As a trusted source for families, we have a responsibility to speak out for racial justice and empower families to have conversations about race and identity with their children at a young age,” Kay Wilson Stallings, Executive Vice President of Creative and Production for Sesame Workshop said in a press release.

“The work to dismantle racism begins by helping children understand what racism is and how it hurts and impacts people. Sadly, today’s announcement comes at a time of racial and social discord when many families are in need of support in talking to their children about racism. We’re proud to reaffirm our Coming Together commitment to racial justice, which will be woven into new Sesame Workshop content for years to come.”

Extra bonus? The new resources are available in English and Spanish, and will be available through both national and community programs.

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