The children's channel reaffirmed, "We are all a part of the change," before airing the public service announcement on Monday.
Trigger Warning: Racism, Police Brutality
The entire country is rallying for George Floyd and other unarmed black victims of police brutality. Most recently, in honor of Floyd, children's television channel Nickelodeon went off the air for a total of eight minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was seen kneeling on the victim's neck. During this time, viewers could hear breathing sounds to further highlight the traumatic incident. While some parents (especially those of color) praised the move, others claimed it was inappropriate for children, Yahoo! News reports. One could argue, however, that black children being forced to change their behavior in order to avoid being murdered by government employees who are supposed to protect them is what is truly inappropriate.
Nickelodeon went off the air for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to educate and display messages for their viewers on ways they can help find justice for George Floyd & Black lives. Literally doing God’s work. pic.twitter.com/SIzS55nXGs— pop religion (@popligion) June 2, 2020
The pause from regular programming took place on Monday evening. It was part of Viacom CBS's overarching blackout. Many of the network's brands went off the air as a public service announcement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The network announced the blackout via social media, stating, "At 5 p.m., today, many of our Viacom CBS brands went dark for eight minutes and 46 seconds to commemorate victims of police brutality, like George Floyd. We stand united against racism, discrimination, and senseless violence. Black Lives Matter." Nickelodeon added in an earlier post on Twitter, "We are all a part of the change."
For many fighting against white supremacy and police brutality, the blackout was a welcome reaffirmation of their struggle. However, many individuals expressed concern over the messaging, claiming that it had scared or traumatized their children. To absolutely no one's surprise, many of these folks were white. One Facebook user commented, "This is not the right platform for this at all. The average of the children that watch your channel [is] under the age of 12... If anything all you're doing is scaring children and that is just wrong." Despite the criticism, Nickelodeon defended the pause. "Unfortunately, some kids live in fear every day," they responded. "It's our job to use our platform to make sure their voices are heard and their stories are told."
w/r/t nickelodeon’s blm statements and speaking as a pre-k teacher, children must confront race at an early age with their adults’ full support and guidance because implicit bias and racism begins EARLY pic.twitter.com/hT9tlYbdQp— charlie | ACAB (@crbilladeau) June 2, 2020
During the blackout, the kids' channel flashed powerful declarations such as, "You have the right to be protected from harm, injustice, and hatred" and, "You have the right to a world that is peaceful." One can only imagine how moving this would have been for a black child first introduced to racism at a very young age. A Twitter user reminded viewers, "To the folks... angry that Nickelodeon aired a powerful eight-minute and 46-second statement because it was 'inappropriate' for children: Tamir Rice was 12 years old when he was gunned down by the police while holding a toy gun."
i’m watching nickelodeon with the kids i babysit for, i’m floored. this is awesome pic.twitter.com/neDjKANxor— 𝘯𝘪𝘤 ☽ (@onlythebraveIou) June 1, 2020
The sad truth is that children of color, especially black children, receive "the talk" far before their white counterparts. The latter group likely does not receive "the talk" at all; the talk about police brutality and what it's like to grow up as a black person in White America. Many black parents have to sit their young children down and explain that the rules are different for them in comparison to their white friends. The laundry list of behavioral changes is perhaps unending: No hoods, no suspicious behavior, put your hands up and state your name if the police ever stop you, let them know you're not carrying a weapon, and most importantly, comply. And even after all this, you might still become the next Floyd, Rice, Sandra Bland, or Breonna Taylor. Though Nickelodeon's PSA will not bring an end to systemic racism, it was a step forward. It was a way to let young black kids know that there is a place for them in this country that their ancestors built with their blood. It was a declaration of every black child's inherent right to life.