After what feels like about six days without a mention of the literal murders of Dr. Suess or Pepé Le Pew, Wingnut America is all fired up for a new culture war. This time, the usual suspects are very concerned that "Sesame Street" is talking about race, through the addition of two new Muppet cast members and some actual talk about how human beings come in various colors. The new Muppets, Wesley Walker and his dad, Elijah, are human-ish Muppets of the Guy Smiley, Prairie Dawn, or Round-Headed Restaurant Customer Driven to Muppetcidal Rage By Grover sort, rather than fuzzy monsters like Grover or Elmo.

And while "Sesame Street" did have a clearly Black-ish character named Roosevelt Franklin back in the '70s (he was purple), Wes and his father are definitely identified as Black, so Elmo can ask some innocent childhood-curiosity questions about why his fur is red and their skin is brown, and different shades of brown, at that. Worse, Elijah is a meteorologist, a clear homage to the '60s radical terrorists, the Weathermen.

Wes and his father appear in a little video where Elmo notices that some fallen leaves are red like his fur, while others are brown like Wes, and why is that? It's all about the melanin, Wes explains. It's sweet and didactic and maybe a little too earnest, but sometimes you need earnest:

The segment is part of a Sesame Workshop initiative called "Coming Together: Talking to Children About Race and Identity," which includes other videos and resources for parents, like this nice essay on how no, children really aren't colorblind; they notice people look different, and they soak up how parents, other adults, and other kids talk and behave around those differences. It offers some pretty straightforward advice:

As soon as children can ask questions, support their natural curiosity by answering them, even the most difficult ones (and it's okay to say you want to think about their question for a while). Let them know that it's okay to notice skin color and to talk about race. The idea is to make differences normal… and good!

Somehow, this is all very upsetting to culture-war conservatives, because "Sesame Street" was a lot better when it was just a lot of happily multi-hued human cast members who may have been different races, but they never talked about it, OK? They were just OK with being who they were, and since when is "Sesame Street" indoctrinating children with liberal propaganda, they say, conveniently pretending there weren't complaints about all those Black people and all that Spanish-talking on public TV. LOL, remember when Sonia Sotomayor poisoned little girls' minds by saying they could pursue any career they want, as long as it's not wife and mother? (She didn't say that.)

See for instance this supremely weird rant by the American Conservative's Rod Dreher, who is upset that "Sesame Street" is now (?!) all "woke," and "teaching race consciousness to little-bitties." He remembers fondly how when he was a kid, the nonthreatening multiracial cast of "Sesame Street" helped him become more broad-minded, especially growing up in the still-segregated South in the early '70s.

Sesame Street was the only exposure I had to black people as people like me — this, as opposed to seeing them in the stores, and being polite, but not engaged with them. Sesame Street was where I learned how to see past color, into the humanity of black people. If you didn't live it, it's hard to express how totalizing the idea of color was in the South of that era.

He liked Gordon and wished he could know him, and loved the complete harmony among people on the show:

The way race was depicted on that program was not like what I saw in real life. It showed how we could live together, if we learned to see each other first as fellow humans, not as bearers of racial identity. I'm telling you, Sesame Street was the only place this vision existed for little white kids in the South (and little black kids too). It was the only place kids like me received a counternarrative to what daily life programmed into our heads about black-white relations.

But apparently, Dreher seems to think the only way that harmony can exist is if everyone could be Black and white and Latino, but without ever mentioning it. At least, that seems to be what he's getting at; he never really explains why he's so very sad. Honestly, I have no idea how he reaches this bizarre statement:

I hadn't realized how deeply the new progressive racial obsession bothered me until I saw that clip above, and realized that woke Sesame Street is now setting out to undo all the work that had been accomplished in the generations the show catechized. You know who taught my generation of children to see color? White people who longed for segregation's return, and black people who lived in fear of white people who longed for segregation's return.

Excuse us, Mr. Dreher, there isn't anything like that in the "Sesame Street" clip. It's just an explanation that people have different types of skin and hair and features, and that's a nice thing that makes humanity pretty neat. It's literally putting into words the beautiful harmony you said you longed for. Not a word about reparations or whatever the fuck Dreher is freaked out about.

Apparently, if we'd all just not talk about race, ever, it would just go away magically, and Rod Dreher would be far more comfortable. After all, Gordon and Susan were never denied a loan because they were Black, never had a taxi drive right by them (largely because "Sesame Street" has no traffic at all), and certainly weren't watched very carefully by Mr. Hooper, God rest his soul. And if they ever had "The Talk" with their adopted son, Miles, it was strictly offscreen. But why would they need to have that talk at all? The policeman is a person in your neighborhood, and unfailingly friendly.

We're fairly certain Dreher isn't under the illusion that the scripted harmony of "Sesame Street" — fine, Gordon and Susan did argue about doing the dishes — is how America actually works. But we're completely mystified that he thinks that a little video about melanin means the show has somehow betrayed its principles.

Happily, nobody's asked him to write any kids' TV programs.

We suspect this won't be the last we hear about this unconscionable outrage. Get ready for Tucker Carlson to feel murdered, again, for we guess a third time. This could become the greatest scandal since that time "Sesame Street" killed our ambassador in Benghazi.

[CNN / The American Conservative via alicublog]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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