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Sesame Street’s new muppets address an important issue – Race5 min read

April 18, 2021 4 min read

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Sesame Street’s new muppets address an important issue – Race5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Generations of children have been entertained by the popular show Sesame Street and its characters. Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Elmo, Cookie Monster and all their friends have for years made us laugh on TVs, and have also taught us some important lessons along the way. From HIV to Autism to the Rohingya refugee crisis and adoption, the number of times the popular show has used its colourful episodes to talk about difficult conversations are innumerable.

Muppets Elijah and Wes. Credit: Sesame Street

Now, doing what they do best, which is combining entertainment and education, Sesame Street has introduced new characters to talk about race.

In ‘Explaining Race’, two black muppets are introduced to talk about racial identity.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

What is race, and what does it mean to have a racial identity? Well, race is understood to be derived from an individual’s physical features, such as light or dark skin tone. Racial identity can be referred as a sense of group or collectiveness based on one’s perception that he or she shares a common heritage with a particular racial group.

Ever wondered how the muppets are brought to life? Here’s a picture of shooting of an episode with Wes and Elijah underway. Credit: Sesame Street

The three-minute segment shows Wes, a kindergarten-aged child, walking with his dad, Elijah. They are taking an afternoon stroll when Elmo comes along to ask an innocent question. He wants to know why Wes and Elijah are brown and why they are two different shades of brown.

Elijah explains that they are brown because of melanin, he says that he has more melanin so he is a darker brown. They begin to think about their hair and eyes and acknowledge that those things form our race. But, in true Sesame style, Elijah also says that even though they all look different, everyone is still human.

(Watch muppets Wes, Elijah and Elmo discuss race in the video below)

Sesame has also announced that this will not be the only time Wes and Elijah will be featured. The series will continue to follow them as Wes learns more about the world.

Owliver Recommends!

Want to learn more about race and all the issues around it? Owliver has rounded up his favourite movies that explore this topic. Be sure to check some of your list!

A Ballerina’s Tale

Iconic ballerina Misty Copeland made history when she became the first African-American woman to be named principal dancer of the legendary American Ballet Theatre. Watch this behind-the-scenes story of how she overcame a difficult upbringing and near career-ending injuries to become one of the most revered dancers of her generation.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

<< Based on the true story of William Kamkwamba, this film follows a 13-year-old boy as he comes up with an ingenious way to save his Malawi village from famine.

Becoming

>> Based on former First Lady Michelle Obama’s memoir of the same name, this inspiring documentary chronicles her life from a childhood on the south side of Chicago to becoming one of the most recognised and respected women of her time.

Queen of Katwe

This biographical drama is set in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, telling the story of 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi, whose life is changed forever after a visiting missionary teaches her how to play chess. Phiona eventually becomes an international chess prodigy, though she deals with plenty of poverty, violence and racism along the way.

Akeelah and the Bee

This sweet movie revolves around 11-year-old Akeelah Anderson, a spelling enthusiast who prepares to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, despite coming from a lower socio-economic background than her competitors. Akeelah feels pressure from her predominantly-Black neighbourhood to succeed and faces racism from her competitors’ parents, but still she manages to keep her eye on the prize.

Sources: NBC, CNN, tvguide.com, Time Magazine