On Monday, Nickelodeon aired eight minutes and 46 seconds of breathing sounds with a black screen carrying the message “I can’t breathe.”
It was the same amount of time Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck before Floyd died on May 25.
The cable network said the programming was in support of justice, equality and human rights. Other ViacomCBS networks, including MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central, did the same. Now, people are defending and praising Nickelodeon after criticism of the broadcast appeared on social media.
The network had tweeted plans to go off the air for eight minutes and 46 seconds Monday alongside its Declaration of Kids’ Rights, which includes the statements, “You have the right to be treated with equality, regardless of the colour of your skin” and “You have the right to be protected from harm, injustice and hatred.”
“Ok, I’m pissed! Why is this sh*t just popping up on Nickelodeon while my kid is watching a show?!!!!” read a since-deleted tweet. “My 8-year-old is scared to death!!! F*ck you media!!! F*ck you!!! U are done!”
The overwhelming response to such criticism of the broadcast has been that the segment can be used to help teach children about racism and the reasons for the current protests across the country.
“White parents, if your children were scared/confused by the Nickelodeon broadcast, this is a perfect moment to talk about why racism IS scary,” tweeted Tony-winning producer and writer Ashlee Latimer.
“Lean INTO that discomfort. Talk to your child about why the fear that they feel is a fear that Black children can’t turn the channel on.”
“People are complaining that it was unnerving, scary, uncomfortable,” tweeted Charlie Higson, a writer and artist for Nickelodeon’s animated series “It’s Pony.”
“That’s the damn point,” he said.
The Nickelodeon broadcast directed viewers to text a number to access a petition from Colour of Change calling for all four officers who were present when Floyd died to be arrested and charged. The spot also directed viewers to visit @colorofchange on Twitter and Instagram to ask public officials to take action.