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‘Sesame Street’ steps up its antiracism programming with new muppets and series

UPDATED: Sun., March 28, 2021

Two new Muppets, Wes and Elijah, star in the new series “ABCs of Racial Literacy.”  (Zach Hyman/Sesame Workshop)
Two new Muppets, Wes and Elijah, star in the new series “ABCs of Racial Literacy.” (Zach Hyman/Sesame Workshop)
By Christi Carras Los Angeles Times

Meet Elijah and Wes, father-son Muppets from “Sesame Street” who star in a new series educating children on race and racism.

As part of its “ongoing commitment to racial justice,” Sesame Workshop launched its “ABCs of Racial Literacy” program Tuesday, introducing Elijah and Wes. In the first installment, titled “Explaining Race,” the father and son explain to Elmo why their skin is a different color than his red fur.

“Elmo wants to know why Wes’ skin is brown,” the fan-favorite Muppet tells his new friends.

“Melanin is something that we each have inside of our bodies that make the outside of our bodies the skin color that it is,” Elijah tells Elmo. “It also gives us our eye and our hair color.”

Asked by Elmo why his skin is a “darker brown” than his 5-year-old son’s skin, Elijah elaborates on the concept of pigmentation.

“That’s a good question, Elmo,” he says. “It’s because the more melanin you have, the darker your skin looks. The color of our skin is an important part of who we are, but we should all know that it’s OK that we all look different in so very many ways.”

“Explaining Race” is one of various resources created by Sesame Workshop to provide “age-appropriate language and strategies to answer sometimes-tough questions around race and racism,” according to Tuesday’s announcement.

Also coming soon is a follow-up short featuring Muppets Sofia and Rosita, who deal with the fallout of a racist encounter at a grocery store and celebrate speaking Spanish.

Also featured as part of Sesame Workshop’s “Sesame Street in Communities” initiative are videos in which real families discuss their personal backgrounds and experiences, as well as online activities to facilitate conversations about identity.

“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,” said Kay Wilson Stallings, executive vice president of creative and production at Sesame Workshop, in a statement.

“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.”

Tuesday’s three-minute video, starring Elijah, Wes and Elmo, is Sesame Workshop’s latest antiracism effort following its special and CNN town hall on racism, developed in response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other victims of racial violence.

Additional virtual tools intended to educate families about race and combat racism are available on Sesame Workshop’s “Coming Together” website.

“Things on the outside – like our skin color, our hair texture, our noses, our mouths and eyes – make us who we are,” Elijah tells Elmo in the “Explaining Race” episode. “Many people call this race. But even though we look different, we’re all part of the human race.”

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