Remember This Powerful Mister Rogers Lesson On Racism

The_powerful_lesson_on_racism_from_Mister_Rogers_and_Officer_Clemmons_(1)
Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images
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Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was known for teaching children about kindness and equality. While the world protests racial equality, many people are re-sharing a powerful scene featuring Mister Rogers and Officer Clemmons on the show. Two similar scenes aired in 1969 and 1993.

Both scenes feature Mister Rogers and Officer Clemmons (François Clemmons) putting their feet in a wading pool together. In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled that pools could not be segregated by race. Many suggest that Mister Rogers was taking a stand against racism in the powerful segment.

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Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood scene featuring Officer Clemmons is still very powerful today

mister rogers officer clemmons pool
Officer Clemmons and Mister Rogers / Family Communications, Inc. PBS

In the scene, Mister Rogers is cooling off his feet in a wading pool when Officer Clemmons comes by. He asks Officer Clemmons to join him. He says that he doesn’t have a towel, and Mister Rogers offers him his. In 1993, they recreate a similar scene in their last episode together.

RELATED: One Powerful Mr. Rogers Scene Made Tom Hanks “Bawl His Eyes Out”

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François Clemmons recently talked about those scenes and how important they were and still are. He said, “They didn’t want black people to come and swim in their swimming pools, and Fred said, ‘That is absolutely ridiculous,'” At the time in 1969, Clemmons didn’t feel it was enough. Now, he realizes how much of a positive influence the scene did have.

mister rogers officer clemmons pool scene
Mister Rogers and Officer Clemmons / Family Communications, Inc. PBS

He explained, “Many people, as I’ve traveled around the country, share with me what that particular moment meant to them because he was telling them, ‘You cannot be a racist.’ And one guy … I’ll never forget, said to me, ‘When that program came on, we were actually discussing the fact that black people were inferior. And Mister Rogers cut right through it.’ … He said essentially that scene ended that argument.”

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François Clemmons
François Clemmons / Wikimedia Commons

Clemmons was hesitant to play a police officer on television

Clemmons added, “I grew up in the ghetto, and I did not have a positive opinion of police officers. Policemen were siccing dogs and water hoses on people, and I really had a hard time putting myself in that role. I was not excited about being Officer Clemmons at all. I still was not convinced that Officer Clemmons could have a positive influence in the neighborhood and the real-world neighborhood. But I think I was proven wrong.”

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Disagreeing with Mr. Rogers is like hating puppies, laughing & calorie free ice cream. We all have opinions. I’m sure some people are going to say, “Um, actually, I am allergic to puppies and ice cream gives me indigestion. You suck.” FINE. But you can’t argue with Mr. Rogers. #blm [email protected] In 1969, around the first anniversary of Martin Luther King's death, Mr. Rogers asked Officer Clemmons to join him and soak their feet together in a pool of water on a hot day.⁣ Their feet stood side by side in a plastic wading pool and both men sat silently, contemplating without a word. Then Mr. Rogers proceeded to help Officer Clemmons dry his feet. Just a few years before, many public pools were off limits to black Americans.⁣ ⁣ François Clemmons talks about when he started to see Mr. Rogers as a father figure: "On April 4, after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. That was a tremendous blow to me personally and politically and emotionally. My world was absolutely shattered. And I was living in what they call Schenley Heights in Pittsburgh, a black bougie neighborhood. When April 4 came and Dr. King was assassinated, they were burning down the Hill District [a historically black neighborhood in Pittsburgh], which was six, seven blocks from [me]. I had only been there eight or nine months, and I was terrified of what was going to happen I remember Fred Rogers called me and said, 'Franc, what are you doing? How are you doing?' He knew where I lived. And at one point he said, 'We’re concerned about your safety. We don’t like that you’re over there. I’m coming to get you'…I never had someone express that kind of deep sense of protection for me…and that experience drew Fred and me really, really close. I thought, Well, this is the real thing right here."⁣ ⁣25 years later, when Officer Clemmons retired, his last scene on the show revisited the same plastic wading pool. Officer Clemmons asked Mr. Rogers what he had been thinking about during their moment of silence a quarter century before. Mr. Rogers told him he was thinking of the many ways people say "I love you."⁣ ⁣ Source: Officer Clemmons: A Memoir (2020) by Françoi

A post shared by Brittany Snow (@brittanysnow) on

Now, in 2020, many people are re-sharing the scene and its story on social media. Actress Brittany Snow shared the scene and wrote, “Disagreeing with Mr. Rogers is like hating puppies, laughing & calorie-free ice cream.”

What do you think?

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