Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Being a father has taken a little starch out of the militant stances I've taken in the past. My son (as all kids do), gravitates towards boys and girls of all colors and races, which means I have to interact with the parents of all these wonderful flavors of kids. I have no problems with interacting with parents of all races (which sounds just like "all my best friends are black"), but interacting with other adults leads to awkward pauses, extended silence and even more extended conversations about kid-related things which is not my deal. This is not why I am inserting race into this particular conversation.

After taking in a steady diet of kiddie movies and television shows, I am noticing that this line of kid programming---which shouldn't surprise me given what adult programming is looking like these days--is disproportionately white. I guess I don't notice it as much with my shows, because thanks to Netflix, Hulu, and other apps designed to compartmentalize my life, I'm able to play God with what I do and do not watch. But kiddie programming is much more limited, especially considering his dayc is multiracial and perhaps not as conscious of what a little black kid as I am. But from Toy Story, to Frozen, to Cars, Sprout TV all these movies and shows have lots of white people and white voices. Sesame Street, Madagascar and Shrek provide some relief, but even those contain voices and not young black faces on the television, that my little black kid can see and relate to on a daily basis.

The only two cartoons that young Nyles can view and feel like he's looking at someone who looks like him are Little Bill (not exactly the most popular of cartoons right now given Bill Cosby's clusterfuck of a personal life and Franklin from Charlie Brown. In fact when Nyles saw Franklin on tv during Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving special, he walked right up to the television, pointed at Franklin, and said, "That's Nyles". It made me smile that he felt that way, but it also broke my heart, that he saw so few brown folks on television, that he enthusiastically gravitated towards the first one. It was bittersweet.

Again, I get that kids and adults need to interact with all races, because that's an important skill to perfect the older one gets. But damn if it isn't equally as rewarding for a brown kid to see some brown people as affirmation that his people matter. That was one of the great benefits of Obama being elected president. Whether he was good, bad or mediocre, every damn day of the week, there would be lovers, haters and everything in between, discussing this man on all kind of media outlets every damn day. And for the most part, he's always referenced as the President. While I'm at it, that's what made the Cosby Show so damn good in the 80s. Here was a black family who was rich, close, cultured and articulate. I want my son to have a President, a dad and a multitude of television characters to watch when I chose to let him look at the television

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