Nickelodeon's powerful 'I can't breathe' PSA ignites conversation around importance of talking to children about racism
Nickelodeon went off the air on Monday evening to make room for a powerful PSA about the network’s support of “justice, equality, and human rights.” Now, people are responding to the 8 minute and 46-second break from children’s content that made way for a soundtrack of labored breath as the words “I can’t breathe” flashed on the screen.
Join us today at 6p ET, 5p PT https://t.co/uLmPxs9UkC
— Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon) June 1, 2020
The act of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement was announced on Nickelodeon’s social media channels before going into effect on Monday evening. The statement also included a “Declaration of kids’ rights” made up of a list of reminders to young people about their right to protection, peace, equality and education. The nearly 9 minutes that followed were the most powerful.
I can’t breathe #Nickelodeon #blmpic.twitter.com/OroAXxpAoh
— uhh.itsAshley (@ItsashleyUhh) June 2, 2020
The above clip captured by a Twitter user shows just a few seconds of what was on television screens across the country for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned his knee to George Floyd's neck, while the black man repeatedly said: “I can’t breathe.” On Monday, his death was ruled a homicide by the Hennepin County medical examiner.
At 5 p.m. today, many of our #ViacomCBS brands went dark for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to commemorate victims of police brutality, like #GeorgeFloyd. We stand united against racism, discrimination, and senseless violence. #BlackLivesMatter
— ViacomCBS (@ViacomCBS) June 1, 2020
According to a tweet by ViacomCBS, the media company that owns Nickelodeon, a number of brands were included in the commemoration of victims of police brutality, like Floyd. The decision to air this on Nickelodeon, however, seemed the most striking to viewers.
Some had negative responses to the network, calling the PSA “creepy” and expressing that the message wasn’t fit for the demographic. One woman even referred to the material as “#ChildAbuse.”
This is CREEPY AF!
Nickelodeon is frightening children by airing promos which turn the TV to all black with the sound of heavy breathing and the words “I CAN’T BREATHE” - as a virtue signal to get kids talking about the death of George Floyd. #ChildAbusehttps://t.co/loAL6kHo4I
— DeAnna Lorraine 🇺🇸 (@DeAnna4Congress) June 2, 2020
What the hell are you playing at @Nickelodeon?
Did you really push this out to tiny children?
— Katie Hopkins (@KTHopkins) June 2, 2020
One parent took to Twitter to say, “That's not the place. I'll have that conversation with my kids on MY time, not yours.” However, many others reacted in response to those speaking against the PSA to acknowledge the vital role of the early education of racism and racial injustice, regardless of how “scary” it may seem.
Nickelodeon stopping broadcast to show nine minutes of the words 'I can't breathe' so the sound effect of laboured breathing.
People are complaining that it was unnerving, scary, uncomfortable. Thats the damn point.
— Charlie Higson (@CPHigson) June 2, 2020
People griping at Nickelodeon for the "I Can't Breathe" spot. Claiming that it's "not the right platform" & that it is scaring their children
It should scare your children.
If they learn of injustice from a cable network instead of their parents then that's on the parents.
— Patrick Scott Patterson (@OriginalPSP) June 2, 2020
Nickelodeon was such an influential part of my young life, and it's invaluable for brands like this to use that influence to educate younger generations on what it means to be an ally for justice, equality and human rights #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/NtrGWR6pti
— David Onda (@David_Onda) June 2, 2020
Woah. This is powerful. Talk about a conversation starter with children all over America. Well done @Nickelodeon https://t.co/3TiqySjAeE
— Jamie Klingler (@jamieklingler) June 2, 2020
Others expressed the privilege in being concerned that the video is the scariest thing that a child has seen, while parents of black children have shared that conversations about race and the threats that face them as a result of it are something that they can’t afford to avoid.
White parents mad about a screen that says "I can't breathe" on Nickelodeon for under 10 minutes but not realizing that Black parents of kids who are the same age get the talk about what to do if a police officer confronts them so they don't get killed.
— NPT Lyric (@LyricOfWisdom) June 2, 2020
Imagine raising kids old enough to read and understand the words on Nickelodeon's "I can't breathe" PSA, but also raising those kids to be more afraid of that ad than what happens to their classmates of color.
Why aren't these parents teaching anti-racism?#BlackLivesMatter
— You can't steal my joy (@carolinapanthag) June 2, 2020
Nickelodeon and ViacomCBS haven’t publicly responded to the conversation surrounding the video. ViacomCBS paused all business on Tuesday in honor of Blackout Tuesday in an effort to shift employees’ focus toward supporting the black community.
For #BlackOutTuesday, Nickelodeon social media will be on pause as we reflect on recent events. Our focus will be on building community, taking action, and sparking real change in the fight against racial injustice. pic.twitter.com/wYJOl8TrZ6
— Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon) June 2, 2020
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Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King discuss racism: 'I do not know a black man who has not been profiled, including Stedman Graham'