Cartoons and the brainwashing of children of color

Photo by Rafaela Biazi on Unsplash

This weekend I have the pleasure of spending time with my grandson. He is a cutie who triggers a smile every time I look at or think about him.  Being a grandmother is much different than being a parent. I have time to observe and enjoy how my grandson sees the world. It’s a second chance to be part of my children’s lives.


I want him to grow up confident of his self-worth and never doubting his life matters. I fear the future will undo my effort. Trump made it clear through his actions and words children of color, whether they be American citizens or not, do not matter. Their lives can be turned upside down, they can be traumatized and victimized by entitled whites without consequences. Look at the ICE raids in Mississippi conducted when children were on their first day of school. Their first day of school ended with many feeling abandoned by their parents.  Some of the children left alone without any provisions for their care were American born infants and toddlers of color. Do you think ICE would abuse the children of undocumented white European immigrants in that manner?


As I sit watching cartoons with him, I’m sickened by the shows. Invariably, the lead characters are white or pink-skinned with blue eyes. Sometimes there is a dark character in the background who echos the words of the leading white characters. It’s not unusual to see these dark-skinned characters with blue or green eyes.   This morning I was struck by white characters break dancing to hip hop. The show “Baby Boss” had no characters of color.

My grandson is mesmerized by these shows that have no one who looks like him. When there is a character of color that character is in the shadows and irrelevant. How does this affect the development of my grandson? What impact will it have on his emotional development? Will he view white as always right and black as dirty and always wrong? I know my children struggled growing up in a sea of whiteness.


During our last visit, I unsuccessfully attempted to introduce him to shows like the Harlem Globetrotters or Fat Albert.  The shows were not ones I enjoyed watching as a child, and neither did my grandson, but they were the only ones that had characters who looked like me.


For Black or mixed families, another challenge is finding children’s books with leading black characters, some who even save the world and keep the interest of the child.


Cartoons are part of the development of most children. I know too much TV is not good, but the reality is most parents use TV to catch a break such as taking a shower or preparing meals. The messages in cartoons mentally prepare children for the world.  Unwittingly or deliberately, cartoons undermine the development of children of color.  They are relegated to be background scenery and white children to be confident and privileged.


Among the lessons I learned this weekend was the recognition that cartoons and most children’s books brainwash our children before they enter school. White children learn about their privilege while children of color learn to idolize whites who save the world from evil people who look like children of color.


I am reminded the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

11 thoughts on “Cartoons and the brainwashing of children of color

  1. Great posts. Cartoons are really from the beasts for Black to live in a fantasy land and not reality. Our ancestors didn’t have time for that foolishness as we are creators and inventors. The best thing for your grandson is for you to to teach him his African history, NOW while his mind is developing and can soak in to see himself as a Black God and nothing less. Also I see you mentioned about about Black and mixed families. Black families need to learn who we are but mixed such as one Black parent and one beast parent, that is not our concern as they are not fully Black African. They are the product of the misdeeds of their dumb parents so that’s where the responsibility goes back to.
    It is up to use as Black Africans for the children to know the full truth of who we are.

  2. This article was on point, Angela.

    That’s something that I realized long after the fact even when I was a kid. There were barely any heroes/protagonists who looked like me. When there was a Black character, they would either be the sidekick, token “Black” best friend, or comic relief at best or straight up villainous at worst. I remember having a conversation with a few friends years ago and I said “Disney never made a prince who looked like me” which really hit them hard (I was in a mixed group of different races in said conversation). It’s not even just the lack of Black characters or having them be decently written, but sometimes, the creators will incorporate ethnic stereotypes onto non-human characters. For example, you have the crows from the Dumbo movie (the original), Skidz & Mudflap from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, or the hyenas in The Lion King playing up non-flattering images and thuggish behavior going on.

    Representation means a ton to me which is my I have multiethnic casts for so many of my books. It would be really cool if you and your grandson could try to make a story with a hero who looks like him doing amazing things and can be taken seriously as a good character. You can have a conversation of what kind of a character he would like to see in a book, cartoon, or movie.

      1. Thank you very much! I feel that it would be great, creative, and constructive. You and your grandson can flex your storytelling muscles with something as fun as this. Okay, I’m a bit biased being an author myself, but this could be a wonderful way to help your grandson realize his potential and gain self-confidence. Ask him things like what genre the story could be, what would the plot look like, or what personality the hero could have.

        It’s something I’ve been telling myself and realizing even more now. The biggest example I created was Kasamba Baraka in my Revezia series (Sika Uvira Chronicle and the Electrum Trilogy). I wanted to make a Black inventor character who makes unique forms of technology, likes independent films, and deals with his struggles of self-loathing. Also, if he were from Earth, Kasamba would be Congolese which is a reference to one of my major DNA samples. It was empowering making a hero like that in my already pre-established fantasy/sci-fi series.

            1. I’m sure it isn’t. I have no illustration talent, but I could at least come up with a storyline. The only thing I made for younger readers was Global Guru Elisha which is geared for an upper elementary/middle school demographic. I do hope this book comes to fruition. You and your grandson can say you made a book together which would be incredible.

  3. You make excellent points, and your questions are spot on. Sadly, we are going in the wrong direction … again. I do love Ospreyshire’s idea though!!! Please keep us posted of your progress!

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