Black children cannot attest to the privilege of growing up with TV shows where characters continually resembled them. Racism is not inherent – it is taught, and it is often the subtle, unspoken discrepancies that can cause the most issues. Television should reflect the demographics of society, and so the lack of a prominent population is intrinsically damaging. According to a study done by Ofcom, almost a third of UK children between the ages of three and four now have access to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and NOW TV. With there being millions of diverse children in the UK, the call for proper racial representation is imperative.
At a precursory glance, many TV channels for children and teens boast only a handful of shows among hundreds where the sole protagonist is played by a Black actor. Since 2000, popular channels such as Nickelodeon, CBBC, Cartoon Network, CITV, and the Disney Channel have broadcast less than twenty shows between them with a Black protagonist. There have been multiple studies that have linked too much TV-watching to behavioural issues (such as unprecedented aggression) in young children. There are fewer studies dedicated to the effect of improper representation in a growing generation. However, the racial imbalance it perpetuates does not need a group of researchers to unpick. When we don’t celebrate the diversity in our children, we perpetuate the social cycle of nurturing racists in believing that there is superiority in whiteness. There is a visual lesson that is being upheld, that Blackness does not belong in spaces where whiteness retains the spotlight, and it is one that must be abolished.
Television for young people is not, and never has been, political. Representing Black characters, and therefore Black children, is also not political. The people who are complaining about something as “innocent” as children’s television becoming ‘all about race’ are the white people who have never had to actively seek representation and grew up with a plethora of characters they obviously resembled. Demanding Black representation is a humanitarian issue, not a political one. It is standing in front of a new, growing generation and telling them they are allowed to be there, that they are allowed to be a part of their stories.