One of the programs I love to watch with my little man is Sesame Street. It’s educational, fun and I watched it with my folks when I was a “little Asa”. I am entertained as I watch the little man count and (try to) sing along with the muppets. His favorite character is Elmo. He gets really excited when Elmo comes on and gets absorbed into whatever Elmo is doing.
This morning as we are watching the Elmo segment, the topic was different types of families. Through song, images of real people, muppets and cartoon characters, the family structures within various cultures were depicted. The first set were a white family with a mother, father and two siblings. The next set were an oriental family with grandparents, parents and 3 or 4 siblings. The third family was a white father, a Black mother and 2 light-skinned children. Then there was a dark-skinned Black mother and daughter. No father. I thought to myself… “noooo … that just didn’t happen!?” I’m fighting a bad cold, so I’m a little medicated and groggy… no doubt I must be seeing things.
So I shake my head and start paying more attention. The segment continues showing more families from various cultures. Within the collage, there is a dark-skinned Black father with long dreadlocks, with a white mother and a little light-skinned boy between them. Then a white, Italian looking boy comes on with his family and introduces them to Elmo. He introduces his mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, and 2 sisters. Then it goes to a dark-skinned Black mother with a baby girl in her lap. They appear to be African. Again no father. No grandparents or other extended family members. Elmo has a conversation with them and states, looking right into the camera, that they are an example of another type of family. Then another oriental family, including grandparents comes on having dinner. A little girl explains how important it is for the family to eat together and how in their culture, the grandparents are shown respect by being served first.
The segment ends with a series of muppets and cartoon animals singing along with their families and everyone of them shows 2 parents with their children. I was dumbfounded. At 22 months, my son… a Black boy… is already being conditioned and socialized to believe that the family structure of dark-skinned Black people, does not include a Black father. I am therefore an anomaly. Society has no expectation of me… or him when he becomes a man… to be a Black family.
I hug my little man… kiss him… and tell him I love him.
I have a wicked headache, I’m sick to my stomach and I need to go lie down… and it’s not because of my cold.