A few months ago, after my four thousandth reading of Pinkalicious, I closed the book, and thought, “Man. If I were an African-American father I would be disgusted by our book selection.”
Pinkalicious. Vanilla Icing Icing Baby.
Fancy Nancy. Frilly whitey.
Biscuit Goes to the Farm (or does whatever). Yellow lab, white identity.
Curious George. A monkey living in a white world. Ergo: white monkey.
Hungry Little Caterpillar – a little white boy with an eating disorder.
Clifford. Big red dog, little white girl.
Where the Wild Things Are. White monsters.
Dr. Seuss One fish, two fish, white kid, white kid.
Goodnight Moon. Little white bunny and his old white granny whispering “hush”
Harry Potter Even the “dark arts” wizards are white. (Thank goodness. Because awkward.)
Lego’s are all white people, My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake couldn’t possibly be whiter. Sofia the First has a white character…once every 8 episodes when they’re running out of story lines for princess entitlement. And let’s not even touch the main Disney princesses (pre-Tiana, I suppose).
(Alright, alright – you get Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day. Congratulations. One color-blind book with a protagonist of color.)
Etc. etc. etc. whitecetera.
Not one week after my racial realization, I learned of a conversation going on at my son’s school’s PTA regarding diversity. A super-academic committee discussed diversity with NYU sociology professors and posed the question: when did you last read a book with a protagonist of color when that protagonist wasn’t 1) overcoming racial adversity, 2) a slave story.
When did you read a book about a kid who’s going about everyday activities and just happens to be non-WASP?
(Not that I need to pat myself on the back, but…I had this realization before hearing of the PTA discussion. Just saying. I’m color blind. Was. Wait. That wasn’t a good thing.)
So, now our PTA is tasking the school with constructive steps toward literary diversity…expanding our library with books where diversity is a non-issue.
When certain (white) Americans dispute that “the system” is set up against children of color, I invite anyone to look through the vast majority of children’s books, including mine.
Imagine being a little black boy or black girl in America and be surrounded by the super popular books (see above) and never seeing themselves reflected. Ever.
You think that wouldn’t set you up for inferiority complexes or a sense of never being able to relate to popular culture?
I’m not sure what the solution is. Could publishing companies publish alternative illustrated books? White not an African American-centric Cat in the Hat? An Asian Pinkalicious? A gender non-conforming Fancy Nancy(Nathan?)
I’m sure this doesn’t make financial sense for the literary corporations just selling books.
But perhaps it would make financial sense?
OMG, are they already doing this and I live so deep in my white bubble that I’m not even aware?
Welp. There’s my confession du jour. Let the twitter trolling commence. (I won’t even see it. I barely know how to tweet.)