Can you tell me how to get… away from Sesame Street?

Sesame Street has always been an American institution in providing fundamental learning and supporting developmental skills for children — a right of passage in our journey through childhood. I’ve spent my time strolling down Sesame Street (and sliding down Reading Rainbow) just like you and anyone else 50 years old and under. I can’t lie, it made the world feel like a happy place. There was no such thing as exclusion — it would be contrary to the core mission of Sesame Street.

But, again, this is an American institution I’m talking about.

By now the viral images of a little Black girl’s bewilderment and disappointment is etched in your memory. The video of two Black girls being dissed at Sesame Place Philadelphia by someone dressed in a Rosita costume was truly heartbreaking. I was almost willing to dismiss the accusations of racism until more videos surfaced. Then the snub seen around the world morphed into a flub for Sesame Place after they released two (possibly three) poorly-crafted statements in response to the incident. It’s really a classic example of a lousy public relations strategy dealing with accusations of racial bias.

Any company could find itself in a PR nightmare because of an employee or contractor’s misguided choices — but standing behind their story for even a moment or taking cover by telling our own, especially when children have been wronged, compounds the glaring problem. It’s CYA, which indubitably translates into protecting pocketbooks in the eyes of the average adult.

That’s just too American nowadays.

This ordeal has been a disheartening reminder that some people believe dollars are more important than children. It also reminded me of feelings I couldn’t help but put on paper last month: the exasperation of being Black amongst people who make it an issue. Vigilance and hyper-consciousness just come with the territory when you’re Black and have to step outside your door.

It’s going to take a minute for me to circle back to Sesame Street without thinking of the flawed humans underneath the eye-catching, fantasy-inducing costumes. As an adult — and American — I know there is ostensible acceptance and inclusion for all and then there is the real story behind the smiling furry faces and bright colors convincing you everything is wonderful — as a child. When you fail to keep up the show for kids and peel back the curtain, it’s tough to want to return for the next performance.

As much as I want to avoid the Sesame Streets of America and stay in reality where I don’t drop my guard as a Black man, I pray the little Black boys and girls who felt wronged will someday be able to navigate their way to a Sesame Street they can live on with peace.