Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown and Racism? Part One

 I’ve had a hard time getting into the holiday season this year. A combination of the recent terrorist attacks and the usual stress that comes with the holidays has made me feel kind of down. So the other day, when I confessed to my son how I’d been feeling, he suggested watching some Peanuts cartoons featuring Good Ol’ Charlie Brown. We watched “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” and I couldn’t help but wonder if the holidays would be simpler if we chose to serve the meal Charlie Brown style – toast, pretzels, jelly beans and ice cream sundaes. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind. 

Leave it to Linus to give the Thanksgiving prayer, and I was struck at how refreshing his simple prayer was, telling a little about the first Thanksgiving where the pilgrims thanked God for the opportunity to create a new world with freedom and justice. Are there many shows these days that reflect such a positive message about America? I thought in honor of Thanksgiving, I’d post a clip from the cartoon on my blog, so I searched Youtube.

That’s when this blog post took a turn in a different direction.

I found the clip I wanted, and the first comment posted in the comments section was something to the effect of how Peanuts was racist, because Franklin (the first African-American Peanuts character) is sitting by himself across the table from the rest of the Peanuts gang.

Really? I watched and re-watched the clip, and sure enough, Franklin was sitting by himself. But was it meant to be racist? It’s interesting how I watched the clip seeing a positive message about America, where someone else watched the same clip and saw racism.

And I’ve got to wonder. How does that happen?

A friend of mine once said, “You’re born with skin color, but race is taught.” Boy, is that ever a true statement. If there’s one thing that being a parent has shown me firsthand, it’s that our children don’t see race. We might send them off to preschool and they might ask about someone that looks different from them, but they’re not seeing race, at least not until someone tells them to see it.

But back to poor Franklin, sitting by himself at Charlie Brown’s impromptu Thanksgiving Dinner. I was curious so I did some Googling about how his character came about, and discovered a story that gave me perspective, and inspiration, and made me proud of how far our society has come. Hopefully, you'll feel that way, too.  Click here for Part 2.

Click here  for Part 2 of this Thanksgiving blog post.

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