Last week, Sesame Street announced that the show would debut its first-ever Asian American puppet, Ji-Young, a 7-year-old character of Korean heritage who loves soccer, skateboarding, bactrim without water and enjoying time in the kitchen with her family. Parents unanimously cheered over the news, since Asian representation on the long-running children’s series has been lacking, and a puppet who reminds young Asian viewers of themselves can undoubtedly help promote cultural understanding and acceptance – a more important mission now than ever before due to the racist Anti-Asian hate crimes that continue to occur as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not everyone was thrilled by the announcement, though. Despite the fact that Sesame Street has taught important lessons about public health and anti-racism for decades, some Republicans are now inexplicably furious about the show’s inclusion of an Asian American puppet. (Yes, really.) Matt Schlapp, the president of the Conservative Political Action Committee, tweeted his feelings about it all, asking, “What race is Ernie is Bert?” He added, “You are insane PBS and we should stop funding you.”
Not content to keep his beef with a children’s show confined to Twitter, he appeared on Fox and Friends First to double down on the fact that he’s apparently a lifelong Sesame Street fan and he simply doesn’t understand why the show wants to “inject race.”
“I grew up watching, and it wasn’t ever about race,” he said. “It was about learning lessons and learning to read and learning tolerance. And they want to inject race.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s also offended by the show’s portrayal of gender, adding, “And by the way, this whole question about gender into everything, one of the Muppet characters had a son, and the son wanted to be a daughter, and they just won’t stop with their push for woke politics.”
It’s unclear, exactly, what gender-focused Sesame Street storyline he’s referring to, but it is worth noting that PBS has supported American communities for decades, providing educational resources to help kids build literacy, math, science, and other skills through its programming and platforms. So even though conservatives think they’re getting a big own on Big Bird by not inviting him to next year’s CPAC events, picking petty fights with characters on an educational TV series as they try to teach racial and cultural acceptance truly isn’t the win they seem to believe it is.
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