We were scouring the children's book section as we usually do at Powell's Book Store, searching for adoptive family and different-race books when a thought occurred to me. My phone holds an ongoing list of wanted-books to add to our little children's library, and if we are lucky, we find one each time we visit Powell's. Today we found FOUR. Our quest to build our children's library is an adventurous one, as our eyes have been opened to how white our home has always been. Our home, our community, our books, our art.
It has been a top priority to bring art and books and toys/dolls into our home that display people of color, people wearing brown skin that matches our son's, so that he doesn't grow up completely immersed in whiteness, wondering what is "wrong" with him or wishing his skin was void of the beauty of color. We want brown and black to be just as normal as white, which is a much easier task said than done. We want to celebrate his blackness and read books with brown kids as the main character, as the hero.We want him to know that there is no mold for family. We want him to know that to us, his skin color can be celebrated and beautiful, just as his white brother's.
I believe a big part of the problem of the privilege that is whiteness [and our inherent racism/prejudices] is that it is bred into us at a very young age. The more I research, read and listen, the more visible our fear and hatred of color/black skin becomes. Subconsciously [and too often, not so subconsciously], we are conditioned to fear people of color. My friend Lacey pointed out a simple example of this: villains in cartoons are often dark skinned and/or have accents [while the hero or victim is white]. In addition, people of color are very underrepresented in positive roles as heroes, affectionate caregivers, and simply main characters. Especially in children's entertainment.
As I finished reading, "I Like Myself" by Karen Beaumont and "Whoever You Are" by Mem Fox with tears in my eyes while strolling the rows of book shelves, I thought to myself, "All families should have these books. Books celebrating different-ness. Books representing people of color and different race, in positive ways. All families should have an array of books for their kids, representing other cultures and people wearing color on their skin."
I believe the change tha must happen starts with us parents; raising our children to see the world, the humans existing in it, with eyes of love, appreciation, respect. Teaching them at the youngest of ages that color on our skin is not bad, scary, or dangerous. It is not a threat anymore than skin without color. We must do this consciously and with intention; it is too easy to let dangerous racism and prejudices, hatred and fear of "other," become inherent and built into who we are. By avoiding the conversation, as it should be ongoing, we innately perpetuate the problem.
To my white friends raising white babies: will you add children's' books with people of color as heroes and caregivers and main characters? Will you help it become a normal and beautiful thing, that people with colored skin exist? Will you have conversations with your children about celebrating and seeing differentness? An easy way to do this is to diversify your children's library. There is obviously so much more to do, like diversifying our communities, but this is a step in the right direction.
Colorblindness is not a thing and the concept is only detrimental to us all.
I'm just one white mama trying to learn how to love people. I have so, so much to learn and it seems I'm consistently seeing that. This is simply one step in the right direction, towards change. It's never too late to expose our kids of color and our kids of whiteness to "differentness."
Here are a few books that we love:
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
Horace by Holly Keller
Any book by Debby Anderson
Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim Who Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim
What books do you love that celebrate differentness and people of color?