"Who’s telling the story? Was this modified to make white readers comfortable?"
Cartoon Network has quietly been doing important work on its social media page, but its latest anti-racism PSA found itself going viral on Wednesday after people realized just how hard the network was hitting back against systemic racism where kids experience it most.
Featuring Pearl from "Steven Universe," the PSA serves as a scathing indictment of the American education system, and especially as it relates to American history. As an example, Pearl takes a look at the inventor of the light bulb.
While everyone knows the names Thomas Edison and Alexander Bell, why does almost no one recognize the name Lewis Latimer. It was his groundbreaking work with carbon filaments that made the light bulb durable and accessible to the general public, and in particular to raise the standard of living for freed slaves.
"These textbooks are incomplete," Pearl rails. "There were Black Roman warriors, Black medieval knights, Black classical musicians, Black cowboys, Black fighter pilots. Where are they?"
"I worry about you humans," she continued. "You rely on these stories to know your own history. Thanks to systemic racism, most of your storytellers prioritized white accomplishments which leaves you with an incomplete picture."
This only the latest in a series of "Steven Universe" anti-racism PSAs for the network, with each one exploring how racism impacts people and even unexpected facets of our world like the whitewashing of history in our education system.
"Ask yourself as you're learning history, who's telling the story? Was this modified to make white readers comfortable? Are major details being left out that would credit people of color and center their point of view?"
Tough questions without easy answers, but questions that need to be explored and addressed. What's the point of teaching history if it's inaccurate or incomplete? What's the motivation behind omitting or altering what really happened?
This latest PSA comes after Cartoon Network's previous short featuring another "Steven Universe" character that emphasized the importance of acknowledging that racism exists so that you can start to work against it. "Don't deny it, defy it" is the message of that one.
While a strong message, it clearly hasn't hit as hard as this latest exploration into the systemic racism that's still endemic in our educational system, based on the online reaction to Pearl's rant.
Everyone who knows the name Thomas Edison, but not Lewis Latimer, has fallen victim to it and owes it to themselves and the next generation to push back and demand the the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth -- no matter whose voice or story it amplifies.