Do you subscribe to listservs? I do and I often exchange information with members of the group and lately, I’ve made it a point to sent two or three POC titles to librarians who can’t seem to find any good books about bullying or cooking for teens. I remember when I submitted books by Reshonda Tate Billingsly, Stephanie Perry Moore and Varian Johnson to a request for Christian fiction someone quickly pointed out that they were written by Black authors. A rather Christian thing for her to do, I’m sure.
Then there are those who request books written for Latino or for Black teens. I think they’re saying that Sarah Dessen, Scott Westerfeld and Jerry Spinelli do not write for teens of color but that Walter Dean Meyers, Alex Sanchez and Randa Abdel-Fattah only write for teens of color and probably only for those in their own ethnic group.
That bothers me because, well, it’s stupid. Books are written for whoever wants to read them, not just for members of a certain ethnicity. You do not have to be White to understand the pain in Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars or the humor of David Lubar’s Let Sleeping Freshmen Lie no more than you have to be Black to feel the emotions in Christopher Paul Curtis’ Watsons Go to Birmingham. So, why act like these books are meant only for ‘certain people’?
George Lucas gets that people think like this and he used it to his advantage in marketing “Red Tails”. He knew that White people would see Red Tails as a Black movie and not go see it. So he called them on it when he revealed all the money he put into the production and what an important story it is.
“Hey Matt, the responders here have said it as well as it can be said. I’ll what I can to bring as much light to this as possible. Let me know if you have ideas. I’ve been able to laugh off book bannings based on irrational right wing Christian fears (and politically correct left-wing fears as well) for years. There were even times I (foolishly) believed those folks wanted the same things for young people that I wanted; just had a different belief about how to get there. But this is racism pure and simple. I’m sick of living in a country in which it’s become more heinous to CALL someone a racist than it is to BE a racist. There will come a time, I hope in my lifetime, when the ethnic scales will tilt and these assholes will be voted out of office. Until then, let’s do what we can to make their lives interesting.”
We sit and look at the issue in Arizona and wonder how can this happen? How can books be removed from university and public school classrooms as well as be removed from school libraries? No doubt, reviewing the historic time line of events will provide supporting evidence, but no doubt we’re looking at groups of people who see racial issues as the other guys issues, who see learning Mexican American history, reading books by African Americans or listening to lectures by Native Americans as the other guys issues. It’s funny when you know that the state of Arizona rests on land that was purchase from Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase/Venta de La Mesilla in 1854. Learning their own history is subversive, I guess.
Next month, don’t just see it as Black History Month. The Civil Rights Movement changed the lives of Whites as well as Blacks. I mean, if you’re going to hold me down, you have to stay in place with your foot on my neck advancing little yourself. Learn what great Americans did for this country and make The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters as much a part of your cultural history as the AFL-CIO. It’s not a Black thing, It’s an American thing and it improves the lives of ALL our children, not just the Black ones.
Quite thinking books with characters of color are only for readers of color. Realize that not reading a book because of the color of the author or its characters is indeed racist. Not liking a book by an author of color based on merit is our US given right, but anything less is wrong. Pushing books aside because they’re written by “those people” (gays, differently abled or differently colored) is just how Arizona got where it is today. The racism in Arizona is NOT JUST A LATINO ISSUE. IT’S AN AMERICAN ISSUE.
I can’t say it much clearer than that. So I challenge you to do something.
- Join the Birthday Party Pledge and give POC books to ALL the children in your life.
- Join the Paper Tigers Reading the World Challenge.
- Join the Africa Reading Challenge at Kinna Reads.
- Join me, Doret and Vasilly for the African American Read In. The book will be announced Monday morning.
- Find out what your state mandates with regard to race and culture in schools. My state says this
- Follow Carleen Brice’s White Readers Meet Black Authors.
- Follow Debbie Reese on Twitter debreese or follow her blog to know what’s happening in AZ. The following suggestions are from her blog.
- Learn about a planned walkout by going to the Facebook page of DA Morales, or following his blog posts at Three Sonorans, or, by following his Twitter feed: ThreeSonorans.
- View excerpts–specially selected for the Teach In–from Precious Knowledge, the documentary about the MAS program that will be aired on PBS in May.
- In elementary classrooms or library read-alouds to elementary-aged children, tead aloud from one of the picture books used in the MAS program. Two suggestions are Pam Mora’s The Desert is My Mother, Gary Soto’s Snapshots from the Wedding.
- With older students, introduce them to Matt de la Pena’s Mexican WhiteBoy or Sandra Cisnero’s House on Mango Street.
- Share what you know with your family, friends, and colleagues.
- Purchase a copy of Rethinking Columbus or one of the other books that was boxed up and removed from classrooms, or, one of the books that was used in the program.
- Purchase a copy of Precious Knowledge. To order, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Individual copy is $28. Public library copy is $40. Rights for university or public performance are $200.) Request your local school and public library to buy a copy as well.
- Sign the petition set up by Norma Gonzales. She taught in the MAS program.
- Donate to the fund to support the work to fight the ban.
A. A SCHOOL DISTRICT OR CHARTER SCHOOL IN THIS STATE SHALL NOT INCLUDE IN ITS PROGRAM OF INSTRUCTION ANY COURSES OR CLASSES THAT INCLUDE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
1. PROMOTE THE OVERTHROW OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.
2. PROMOTE RESENTMENT TOWARD A RACE OR CLASS OF PEOPLE.
3. ARE DESIGNED PRIMARILY FOR PUPILS OF A PARTICULAR ETHNIC GROUP.
4. ADVOCATE ETHNIC SOLIDARITY INSTEAD OF THE TREATMENT OF PUPILS AS INDIVIDUALS.
Have a vibrantly, colorful week!