Nickelodeon, a children’s TV channel, openly voiced their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. On June 1, 2020 the Viacom owned channel broadcasted a black-screen video lasting 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This is the same amount of time it took for George Floyd to be choked to death by police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020. Floyd’s murder has sparked a global discussion and many protests against systemic racism and the institutions that continue to protect the police even as they kill the people they are tasked with protecting. Weak sounds of inhaling and exhaling are underscored by Floyd’s last words “I can’t breathe” for the entire length of the broadcast.
In a statement prefacing the network’s Declaration of Kids Rights, Nickelodeon announced it was going off the air to run the broadcast, “in support of justice, equality and human rights.” This Declaration included statements like, “You have the right to be treated with equality, regardless of the color of your skin,” and “You have the right to be protected from harm, injustice and hatred.”
These declarations are intentionally worded to validate the struggle of seeking justice for George Floyd and other victims during the latest wave of police brutality. Their message emphasizes the unfairness of his murder while at the same time reminding audiences they have a right to life, no matter their skin color. Nickelodeon is emphasizing the point of protesting needless violence and expressing solidarity with the black community.
Continuing back the Black Lives Matter movement specifically, Nickelodeon added, “We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, creators, partners and audiences and condemn all acts of racism, discrimination, and senseless acts of violence.”
Going beyond performative activism, Nickelodeon announced it would be, “donating $5 million to The Bail Project, Community Coalition, Equal Justice Initiative, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Bail Out, Amnesty International and other organizations working tirelessly to end systemic racism.” The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund fights for racial justice through democracy and litigation. Organizations like The Bail Project and National Bail Out have been working to free protestors arrested by police in protests across the country.
Seeing such a well-known children’s network back the Black Lives Matter movement with powerful clear messages is incredible. One result of their broadcast will be the much-needed conversations parents and children will share in households across America.
Nickelodeon received some backlash from parents who were worried their children would be scarred from the broadcast. Others defended the network’s message, video game historian Patrick Scott Paterson tweeting, “It should scare your children. If they learn of injustice from a cable network instead of their parents then that’s on the parents.”More than teachers or cable networks, parents are responsible for their children’s education. The conversation on racial inequality should begin at home and Nickelodeon’s broadcast facilitates some important conversations on police brutality.
These discussions with children are very necessary given that racism is a learned behavior and education on its history can lead to destroying systemic racism. People experience racism from a very young age, it is within the realm of possibility that some children are already aware of America’s race problem. Other children are completely in the dark about what their peers experience simply because they have a different skin color.
Our best defense against fascism is information and Nickelodeon is making that information accessible to children. It is through an educated and informed generation that action against racist systems can continue to take place. Nickelodeon reaffirms values like the pursuit of equality as well as justice in these children who will one day inherit the institutions we leave behind.
It is vital that we provide them with a system that works to protect everyone.