Arthur, Ratburn, & A Less Sweet Home

I don’t normally do these kinds of “angry letters”, but this one hit close to home and by close, I mean it hit my actual house. Without redaction, I present to you the email I just sent to the director of programmer at Alabama Public Television regarding his station’s refusal to air a gay rat wedding:

Dear Mr. McKenzie,

It has gotten harder to admit as of late, but I am a native Alabamian. I was born and raised in Abbeville. I completed my basics at Troy University in Troy and finished my degree at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. I am not outsider with an outside opinion.

As a child, I rushed home to turn on Alabama Public Television (APT) and watch Arthur. When the show debuted in 1996, I was just eight years old. Looking back now, I know they were just cartoon animals, but at the time, those characters were much more to me. Arthur’s friends were my friends too. They didn’t look like anyone I knew, but having a diverse group of friends, with different backgrounds, beliefs, and ideals, was not something I really had at the time.

Growing up, my parents decided I would attend a nearby private school. This school was founded around the same time schools in Alabama were forced to desegregate. As such, it provided a more expensive option for white families to keep their children away from non-white families. I doubt that was the conscious decision of many parents, including my own, but because that is where I went and that is where I remained, diversity was only something I saw on Arthur.

I no longer live in Alabama, though I do occasionally see APT when visiting my dad. When I heard what you had decided, I wasn’t shocked. These days, few things shock anymore. I wasn’t horrified either. Unfortunately, that too is too common to have meaning.

I was simply disappointed.

I believe you did what you felt was right. I respect your decision, despite my disagreement, and I understand what a difficult position it must have been. Still, I find your decision cowardly and your reasoning unreasonable. It is the responsibility of parents to parent. If Alabama moms and dads want to continue teaching hate, bigotry, or other evils, then fine. That does not mean APT should avoid the question altogether. You have a duty, as a public entity, to represent the public. To show the world as it is, rather than how a few parents think it ought to be. Ignorance will not put the genie back in the bottle and no amount of wishing will change the fact that gay people exist, and gay children need to know they have as much right to be happy as anyone else.

You could have thrown up warnings or provided some outreach to stem the tide of hate you would have gotten from the hateful. You could have shown it any number of ways, but you chose to not even do that much. In 1996, when kids like me needed something like Arthur in their lives, would you have seen that diverse cast of characters and decided they should all look and act alike?

Perhaps not. Perhaps even asking that of you is wrong. But I see no difference between doing that and doing what you have done. Either way, Alabama is where ignorance triumphs most.

Congratulations on aiding its victory.


C. T. Murphy



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