Diversify Your Kids’ Media Intake With These Movies and Books That Celebrate and Center Black Characters and Creators
In order to raise kids who are actively anti-racist, adults should practice examining their own biases and self-educating with anti-racist texts, and then bring these learnings to the children in their lives. Read kid-friendly anti-racist books together, like Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You; hold space for kids’ anger, confusion, sadness and questions; and don’t shy away or sugarcoat "difficult" topics. Be honest and open. While watching classic kids’ movies by white creators — everything from The Goonies to most of Disney’s animated films — be sure to point out and discuss racist stereotypes and attitudes. Being silent and just glazing over offensive elements found in children’s movies isn’t helpful: In the same way you’d call out another person’s racist actions, call out the films’ failings and have a meaningful discussion about them.
For parents of Black children, discussing racial identity and racism is a must — a matter of not only exploring identity and understanding a society that centers whiteness, but also one of safety. On the other hand, parents of white kids don’t feel the same pressure, opting instead for the "color-blind" or "we’re all people" rhetoric that contributes to systemic racism and prevailing racist attitudes in our country. "If you look at me and don’t see the color of my skin, you don’t see me at all," journalist Jeremy Helligar recently wrote in "When White People Say They ‘Don’t See Color,’" an article in Medium's Level imprint. "...To accept Black people is to respect the uniqueness of the Black experience — not to pretend race and racism are illusions, unworthy of being discussed or even acknowledged."
With this in mind, in addition to confronting racism and anti-racism outright, it’s also important to diversify kids’ media intake. That is, fill their bookshelves and Netflix streaming queues with works that don’t just center on Black pain, or works that are meant to teach white people, but fill their lives with works by Black creators that celebrate Blackness and explore Black experiences and lives — that express Black joy and love.
Diversify Your Bookshelf
Within the last few weeks, anti-racist reading lists have flooded online publications and social media. There’s no doubt that self-education and reflection are essential when it comes to learning about racism and taking anti-racist actions. However, these lists that mean to do so much good are also eclipsing books by Black writers and illustrators that are not solely about race or racism. In addition to buying your kids Stamped and Angie Thomas’ bestselling YA novel The Hate U Give, try diversifying your kids’ shelves starting with these works by incredible Black artists and writers — and be sure to diversify the voices and points of view your children are seeing always, not just while the Black Lives Matter movement is in the news.
Diversify What You’re Streaming: Feature-Length Movies
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Sure, we’ve seen quite a few Spider-Man origin stories on the silver screen, but "let’s do this just one more time." In this iteration, our hero is Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a Black Puerto Rican teen from Brooklyn who fears he’s not living up to his father’s high expectations. As Spidey fate would have it, Miles is bitten by a radioactive arachnid and must take up the Spidey mantle to save New York — and the multiverse. Hilarious, action-packed and full of heart, the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse proves anyone can wear the mask.
Diversify What You’re Streaming: Live-Action TV Shows
Reading Rainbow: This educational public TV series is a classic. Hosted by LeVar Burton, Reading Rainbow won over 200 broadcast awards, including a Peabody and a whopping 26 Emmy Awards. The concept? Get kids to read. And it worked. Reading Rainbow is PBS’ third-longest running children’s series, just after Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and, just like those shows, it’s essential childhood viewing.
Diversify What You’re Streaming: Animated Shows & Shorts
The Proud Family: Created by animator Bruce W. Smith — and produced by Jambalaya Studios — this animated sitcom ran on the Disney Channel from 2001 until 2005. The show’s main protagonist is 14-year-old Penny Proud (Kyla Pratt), who is constantly navigating her father Oscar’s (Tommy Davidson) overprotectiveness and embarrassing shenanigans. Nominated for several Annie and NAACP Image Awards, The Proud Family nabbed a BET Award for Outstanding Comedy Series — and, luckily for viewers, it’s available on Disney+.