I believe in Sesame Street.
As a first generation immigrant, I was raised in a small Midwestern town with few minorities. Even as a small child, I was aware of the issues of race and class. Unlike most children, I did not learn English from my parents, but rather from watching public television programs. To me, Sesame Street represented the ideal society, people and puppets in various shapes, and colors with different backgrounds coming together to learn and help one another. Unfortunately, my own childhood and adolescence was marred by prejudices and stereotypes about race.
Looking back, I wouldn’t consider myself to be the target of racism or even having a traumatic childhood. What I remember most is that I wanted so hard to fit in and to not be the only Asian girl in my class. I also remember occassions in high school where I sat back and let other people, including teachers, get away with their racist and prejudice remarks about other ethnic groups because I was fearful that if I vocalized myself I would suffer the same fate. What I didn’t realize until I left the small midwestern town and moved to Chicago for school was that I didn’t have to conform to be accepted. Diversity was appreciated and that life could be similar to that on Sesame Street.
Living in Chicago, I was finally exposed to people of various races, religions, social economic backgrounds and sexual orientations, and for the most part, it was harmonious. It was the first time that I felt being a unique individual was not something frowned upon. Today, I still gravitate towards life in the bigger cities because I am intrigued by the diversity and fascinated with other cultures and ethnicities. However, living in a larger city also has its downfalls. There are pockets in the city where the disparity between rich and poor are as evident as night and day and race wars are prevalant between gangs. Sesame Street did not prepare me for these real world examples of inequality and violence but it did help foster my desire to contribute to the greater good by volunteering and donating my time to those in need and to have compassion and understanding for all.
I feel it has been a travesty that in the past decade conservative groups began to criticize Sesame Street for introducing social issues such as AIDS and homosexuality into their programming. They feared these topics persuaded children into believing that a certain lifestyle was right. Rather, I believe that by exposing children to these social issues through the lives of other children instills a sense of compassion and understanding, something which we can all benefit from. Therefore, I believe in Sesame Street because it realises the potential in all children, regardless of race, class and economic prosperity to understand the principles of compassion and acceptance by exposing children to different cultures and various social issues. I believe that, because Sesame Street realizes that children can learn compassion and empathy at an early age, it has contributed to helping future generations break down barriers caused by social inequalities, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. I know that for me, the lessons I learned on Sesame Street have helped me become a more compassionate person.
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