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NRA goes off the rails on Thomas the Tank Engine

NRA+spokeswoman+Dana+Loesch+speaks+during+the+Conservative+Political+Action+Conference+in+National+Harbor%2C+Maryland%2C+on+Feb.+22.+
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on Feb. 22.

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on Feb. 22.

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on Feb. 22.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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The famous children’s show “Thomas & Friends” broke racial barriers Tuesday when it unveiled two new female characters designed to be from African countries. That same day, Dana Loesch of the NRA broke children’s hearts by likening the show’s other characters to the Ku Klux Klan on NRA TV.

This is a shocking overreaction to a beneficial diversity initiative. Children should be exposed to a diverse group of characters, much like their current and future peer groups will look — and the first step to ensuring that is through entertainment. Comparing “Thomas & Friends” characters to the KKK is neither a proper assessment of the TV show nor child-appropriate.

“This is horrible,” Loesch said of the show’s new characters as she unveiled an image of the trains wearing KKK hoods. “Am I to understand this entire time that Thomas and his trains were white? Because they all have gray faces.”

But Loesch clearly hasn’t watched the show if she thinks the addition of two black characters means the original ones were white. The new trains’ faces aren’t any different than the old ones — they merely have African-themed paint on their bodies. And the show already has characters from Mexico, India and China.

While these international trains are a recent addition, they’re certainly welcome. This season, as part of a partnership with the United Nations, Thomas will leave his fictional island to visit trains from around the world — and whether the NRA agrees or not, this requires new characters.

It was as if Loesch thought the decision was made because “Thomas & Friends” was racist, and this was her attempt to criticize liberals for calling such a benign children’s show racist.

“Thomas the Tank Engine has been a blight on race relations for far too long,” Loesch said sarcastically. “Clearly this is overdue.”

The gun rights issues that the NRA typically concerns itself with should be several pastures away from race issues. But in a way, the NRA’s response seems like a syllogism for its view of everyday Americans.

The NRA has been hostile to diversity initiatives in the past — Loesch has famously slammed black victims of police brutality in response to Black Lives Matter protests. The NRA has often seemed openly hostile to the idea of black people having guns, even though the entire purpose of their organization is to fight for Americans’ rights to own guns.

But it seems that from the NRA’s response to diversity initiatives — especially their most recent response to “Thomas & Friends” — they believe Americans should only be white.

Kids shows demonstrate our values in their most distilled versions — they’re how we help children understand complex issues. If the NRA is so concerned with diversity initiatives like this one, maybe the organization should stick to playing with its toy trains while the rest of the world grows up.

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NRA goes off the rails on Thomas the Tank Engine