The first of four Cartoon Network animated public service announcements teaching children to “acknowledge racism” has provoked an online backlash, after it featured two boys of different races discussing possible marriage.
“You can’t get married … Black people can’t marry white people!” a cartoon bully says to the two young boys of different races, who are discussing the prospect of marrying when they grow up. A character from the show ‘Steven Universe’ then appears onscreen and outright says, “Kids! Don’t be racist!”
The scene is then revealed to have been a filming set for an ‘actual’ PSA, and the three child actors discuss the real-life implications of racism. “…It hurts to deal with racism, and when people act like it’s not real, it makes it even worse,” says the only black child in the group.
The Crystal Gems say BE ANTI-RACIST! You have to acknowledge racism to act against it. Don’t be silent, use your voice and privilege to help ✊🏿✊🏼✊🏾✊✊🏻✊🏽💖
— Cartoon Network (@cartoonnetwork) October 27, 2020
Along with the video, Cartoon Network included a link to its ‘Be Anti-Racist’ campaign’s page, with the alliterating slogan “Don’t Deny it, Defy it” (presumably with regards to racism). The remaining three PSAs will feature different ‘Steven Universe’ characters, the company said, and will be rolled out over the next couple of months.
The arguably blunt PC messaging prompted outrage online, with users calling it “cringe,” or outright refusing to believe it was part of a serious anti-bigotry effort.
Cartoon Network was also slammed specifically for using child characters in the video, with users saying that racism might be too heavy a topic for real-life children to comprehend. “How about we stop talking about race?” one commenter pleaded with the network.
Surely this isn’t real!?!?!?!?
— LL Cool J jnr (@mixrace_king) October 29, 2020
This is cringe. Using kids as models really make it worse. I never saw when I child people being racist among kids. Usually, adults will be thinking racist. Should put adults or maybe don’t use the word racist. It is a strong word for kids.
— FinnManusia (@Finn_Manusia) October 27, 2020
How about we stop talking about race and we talk about how we are only human :/ also no that doesnt happen in childhood stage, children dont understand races and thats how it should be. It honestly baffles me that you think this is a amazing message to send to all of the kids 🙃
— Dremaus1911 (@DrewKel28361864) October 29, 2020
Other commenters thought that, despite it coming from a pro-gay place, characters explicitly talking about their sexuality might have been out of place for a cartoon aimed at kids.
I thought this was funny and a great message at the same time but I don’t think having confirmed homosexual characters is great thing to be aimed at children yes homophobia bad but I’m just saying I’d want my kids to decide stuff like that on their own
— GumboWumbo (@GumboShrimps) October 29, 2020
its all fine to me until i remember that children shouldnt be thinking of marriage or sexuality at a young age
— Jesstendo (@jess_tendo) October 28, 2020
Overall, viewers seemed to agree with the video’s espoused sentiments, but were uncomfortable with strong political topics being brought up before the target kid audience, especially in a straightforward “on the nose” way.
Remove sexuality from it entirely and the commercial wouldve been slightly better b still canned and on the nose lol. I just didnt like it, but if this is how kids nowadays learn shit then good on them
— C☆#Sora4Smash (@ChrisAkutoTM) October 28, 2020
Another group of users, however, disagreed with the critics, arguing that it might “it be a real relief to a lot of children” to be represented in the media along with their concerns, which might often go unseen in the mainstream. “I cannot understand how you can have any type of problem with this unless you’re racist,” one commenter even tweeted.
It might even be a real relief to a lot of children to feel affirmed in the idea people who look different can still get along and that what you look like shouldn’t define how you feel about yourself.
— Kajel but spooky (@Kajel96536401) October 28, 2020
Literally this PSA is simply telling kids not to be racist I cannot understand how you can have any type of problem with this unless you’re racist. And if you do have a problem with this and claim to not be racist is it really worth putting it here to give –
— yo favorite;) (@flypimpin24) October 29, 2020
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