Heaven Help Us All

Posted on 17 June 2014 Tuesday


weneeddiversebooks-logo

My plan: To write a quick little post about summer reading and summer at ALA. But, you know what they say about the best laid plans.

I wasn’t online last night and missed the Limbaugh shenanigans. Only a small part of me wants to understand the method to this man’s madness the rest of me wonders about those in this country that give power to not only to him but to a press that continues to sensationalize any event by addressing our emotions rather than our intellect when we think they’re providing us with information.

I could tell you that I know Deborah Menkart and Deborah Menkart is not racist. One cannot be authentic in their understanding of another culture if they do not embrace their own culture. If you’ve missed it, he accuses Menkart and Teaching for Change of being racist because they don’t sell his book. His book by the way, that is racist and inaccurate in its portrayal of US history. But, spending time in is web gives it power.

People of color can be prejudiced, but they cannot be racist, because they don’t have the institutional power.

Racism = prejudice + power

Whereas 50 years ago, my ancestors in the Delta finally had the power to leave the segregated South for the racism of Chicago. Did those schools in the Delta even have a library? I know some of my relatives were illiterate and I know how hard they worked to get their children into school. Institutional racism is a bitch.

40 years ago my parents had the power to live in a segregated neighborhood while they sent their children to a school that was 98% white. There were no books by any authors of color in that school library and the social studies teacher my 7th grade year refused to teach about Africa. How in the world I formed my racial identity is a mystery! I don’t even remember checking about books with black children from the public library in the black neighborhood.

30 years ago my husband and I had the power to move to Indianapolis and was immediately told which neighborhoods to avoid. We carefully selected an area with ‘good’ schools that had a diverse student population. The teaching staff however, did not reflect this diversity. My daughter often complained that she never could find books in the library about teens like herself. Nonetheless, my children were empowered by the education they received in these schools and are building successful careers.

20 years ago I had the power of a classroom teacher. My US History classes were no doubt afrocentric as was my classroom library. I had to work to find books for my students, but I had them reading. And questioning. I was in one of the worst performing schools in the state of Indiana. I felt like I was giving them tiny drops of water. Institutional racism wastes minds and that’s a terrible thing.

It may take a while to get power; it may take a long while. But, no one is going to give it to you. Sometimes, we only think we have power, but isn’t that all that matters? Isn’t life all about the perception? I think that’s what Limbaugh has figured out. I have the power to dismiss insanity from my life and to sit back and by a good book written by an author of color.

Currently Reading: Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Support Teaching for Change.

Follow the hashtags, join the conversation #DiversityatALA #WeNeedDiverseBooks

 

Advertisements