The children’s show “Arthur” dedicated a special clip to the late civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis, as the title character and his best friend try to figure out what they can do about racism in their town.
The PBS show released a video titled “Arthur on Racism: Talk, Listen, and Act” that plays off the very real issues happening today regarding racism and police brutality in the wake of the May 25th death of George Floyd while in police custody.
In the video, a troubled-looking Arthur the aardvark calls his best friend, Buster the rabbit, to ask if he’d seen a recent viral video showing an unnamed person from their Elwood City community experiencing some form of violent racism.
“Yeah, I just watched it. It was awful. I can’t believe someone would be hurt like that just because they’re Black!” Buster responds.
“Buster, it happens everywhere. I was talking to Mrs. MacGrady the other day,” Arthur responds, mentioning their school lunch lady. “She said there’s a really long history of Black people not being treated fairly in this country.”
The two 8-year-olds endeavor to do something proactive about racism in their community, but aren’t sure where to start. So, they video call Mrs. MacGrady to figure out what to do.
She notes that the video made her “blood boil.” The boys agree and Buster even admits that he’s also scared given how close to home the unknown incident took place.
“It’s scary Buster, but you should know that a lot of grown-ups are fighting racism and working hard to keep us safe,” she said. “Racism is like a disease, if you don’t treat it, it’s going to get worse.”
She continued: “It’s about all of us. It’s not enough to just say ‘I’m not racist, it’s not my problem.’ We have to actively fight against racism. As my friend John Lewis once said, ‘If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.’”
She informs them that there are three ways the boys can help. The first is to talk about racism and not be afraid to ask questions. Second, she encourages them to listen to people who have experienced racism firsthand and imagine how it would feel if it happened to them or someone they love. Finally, she tells the boys to act when they see racism happening around them, even if it’s scary.
“Remember kids, talk, listen and act. If we work together, we can make a difference,” she concludes.
The video ends with a caption explaining that it’s in memory of Lewis, who died in July after a lifetime of civil rights activism and a lengthy 33-year tenure in the House of Representatives.
This wasn’t the first time that Lewis’ words had a direct influence on Arthur. In 2018, the congressman actually lent his voice to the children’s cartoon.
He appeared on an episode titled “Arthur Takes a Stand,” in which Arthur learned that Mrs. MacGrady was running the lunchroom all by herself and decides to do something about it. Thanks to some inspiring words by MacGrady’s friend, Lewis, he manages to get the school board to hire her an assistant through meaningful protest.
The clip of Lewis’ cameo gained new attention on social media shortly after he died.