These TV Episodes Can Help Teach You Teach Your Kids About Racism

Ni’Kesia Pannell
Photo credit: NBC - Getty Images
Photo credit: NBC - Getty Images

From Woman's Day

As the country continues to grapple with the lasting impacts of systemic racism, more and more white and white-passing people are finally talking openly about race, racism, white privilege, and racial discrimination. A vital part of these conversations involve talking to kids about racism, too. If parents have never facilitated these discussions before, it can all feel a little overwhelming. Thankfully, there are a few (but, honestly, not enough!) TV episodes for kids that address racism, prejudice, and privilege to help parents get the conversation going (and, most importantly, keep it going).

For non-Black parents, ensuring these conversations are beneficial hinges largely on how educated they are on the history of Black people — especially as it pertains to their unfair treatment within the United States — and the mental and emotional trauma Black people currently face, often on a daily basis, simply due to the color of their skin. This education also requires parents do the work of unlearning the misinformation and white-washed history that has been passed down via previous generations and educational institutions. Parents can look to books, — like this list of recommended books for white readers on race and white privilege by Charis Books & More, an independent feminist bookstore — podcasts, — like the anti-racist podcasts on this list by Elle — and other online resources to assist them in their own educational journey before they start talking with their children.

And of course, once parents have done that work, they can lean on the following television shows to help them teach their children part of that history, and how it has shaped our current reality. So if you’re looking for family-friendly episodes that will help you introduce the topics of race, racism, white and/or white-passing privilege, and anti-racism to your children, here are 13 TV episodes that can help you get started.

That’s So Raven

“True Colors” (Season 3, Episode 10)

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Disney’s groundbreaking comedy,That’s So Raven premiered in 2003, and quickly gained popularity for its ability to tackle hard issues in a way that kids and teens would understand. In Season 3, Raven — who was passed up for a job at a clothing store after doing incredibly well on her interview — tackles the issue of racism and discrimination as she sets out to prove that the manager of the store chose her best friend Chelsea for the job over her due to the color of her skin.

Family Matters

“Fight the Good Fight” (Season 2, Episode 20)

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Family Matters, which ran from 1989 to 1998, was all about breaking the typical stereotypes that have been placed on Black families. In Season 2 of the show, after advocating for a new class to be added to their high school curriculum about other cultures and races, Laura Winslow and Steve Urkel face backlash from their racist peers.

Photo credit: ABC Photo Archives - Getty Images
Photo credit: ABC Photo Archives - Getty Images

Family Matters

“Good Cop, Bad Cop” (Season 5, Episode 15)

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In Season 5, Eddie — the eldest of the Winslow children — encounters a harrowing racial profiling incident when he is accused of being in a “white neighborhood” as a Black person.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

“Mistaken Identity” (Season 1, Episode 6)

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The beloved ‘90s show was known to touch on many sensitive topics, especially during the show's first three seasons. It was Season 1, however, that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air showed viewers that no amount of money or level of status can keep the police from racially profiling you when you're Black.

Static Shock

“Sons of the Fathers” (Season 1, Episode 8)

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A cartoon that isn't necessarily well-known, Static Shock aired from 2000 to 2004 on the now defunct TV station The WB. During its run though, one episode in particular focused on racism — a theme hardly found in the majority of cartoons back then (and even now). In the episode, Virgil (whose alter ego is Static Shock) spends the night at a white friend’s house, only to find out his friend's father is racist.

Degrassi

“Got My Mind Set on You” (Season 7, Episode 15)

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Degrassi is a show known for tackling tough issues, including drug abuse and bullying, but in Season 9, Episode 15, the show turned its sights on racism. In this episode, one of the main characters, Danny, who is Black, is accused of stealing from a store by a store clerk — a story very relatable to anyone of color.

Photo credit: NBC - Getty Images
Photo credit: NBC - Getty Images

Degrassi

“Didn’t We Almost Have It All” (Season 8, Episode 4)

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This episode of Degrassi, from Season 8, touched on the term "tokenism" and what it means to be the "token Black person." After rushing a white sorority, Liberty — a Black student — discovers that she was only accepted into the group to create the appearance of diversity.

Sesame Street

“Racism on Sesame Street” (Season 25, Episode 5)

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This episode on racism from season 25 of Sesame Street is just as relevant today as it was when it premiered almost 30 years ago. The episode saw two cast members — one white and one Black — have their friendship questioned as others took issue with them being friends, and the uncomfortable conversation that followed.

The Proud Family

“I Had a Dream” (Season 1, Episode 15)

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In this episode of the groundbreaking Disney Channel show, The Proud Family, Penny Proud goes back in time to 1955 and experiences what life was like when segregation was prevalent and racism was at the forefront of life. An experience that, unfortunately, mirrors the experiences of Black and brown people today.

The Proud Family

“Culture Shock” (Season 2, Episode 23)

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Although Season 1 of The Proud Family featured Penny Proud joining the fight to end racism, this episode in Season 2 will give kids the opportunity to see that anyone and everyone has implicit and explicit biases. In this episode, Penny participates in a cultural exchange project at school and switches households with a young Muslim family. As she is assigned to this family, viewers discover Penny’s skewed thoughts and standoffish behavior towards those who are not like her.

Photo credit: George Pimentel - Getty Images
Photo credit: George Pimentel - Getty Images

Smart Guy

“Get a Job” (Season 3, Episode 9)

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Though Smart Guy only ran for three seasons (1997-1999), if offered viewers a great depiction Black families that the media doesn't routinely portray, while simultaneously tackling many issues that teens and pre-teens face.

In this episode, Yvette and Marcus — the two eldest children — are forced to get jobs while T.J. is at geology camp. Although Marcus enjoys his late night radio show job, albeit against the behest of his father Floyd, Yvette is encouraged by her boss at a clothing store to follow around Black patrons to ensure they aren’t stealing.

Arthur

“Arthur Takes a Stand” (Season 21, Episode 4)

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In this thoughtful episode, Arthur is adamant about getting help for Mrs. MacGrady, the cafeteria worker at his school, because she is being treated unfairly. After noticing that Mrs. MacGrady is making breakfast and lunch for everyone at the school without any help, Arthur — and a few of the other students — stage a boycott until Mrs. MacGrady is guaranteed the help that she needs by the school’s secretary, Ms. Tingley.

Sesame Street & CNN

“Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism”

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Recently, Sesame Street collaborated with CNN to present a town hall special for children and families to address racism, white privilege, and the ongoing protests in the fight for racial equality and the end of police brutality. The hour-long special details how families can work to combat racism, how to push for change, and why the protestors seem "sad and upset," taking questions from Elmo, Abby, Big Bird, and children and parents from across the country.

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