From time to time, I’ve felt called to write about racial injustice. I’ve wondered if we’re teaching our children to hate. And I’ve pondered my role as a bystander by not speaking up about racial injustice. The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have put the issue of racism in the United States front-and-center this summer. Racial injustice is so big, so complicated that I’m at a loss for how to help. Where do I begin?
In this video titled Courageous Presence with Racism, author and psychologist Tara Brach says, “We each have a role to play. We each have medicine we can apply to this illness.” Tara advises to “start right where you are.”
So, where am I? Well, I am a white privileged woman living in a predominantly white, conservative community. I am fortunate enough to have a house full of books, many of which are children’s books. Over the decades, I’ve read these tales to my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
This New York Times article by Jessica Grose challenged me to consider my personal library through the lens of race. Jessica writes, “A way to raise children who are anti-racist is by making sure your home library has books with black people at the center of their stories.”
When I checked my small library of children’s books, I found that out of 170 children’s books, three had black characters. I do not remember reading these books to my children or grandchildren; in fact, I cannot remember what the stories were about or why I purchased them. Slowly it dawned on me that I have been a racist and didn’t even know it.
Jessica’s article, These Books Can Help You Explain Racism and Protest to Your Kids contains age-appropriate book recommendations for kids ages 0 -12. That’s perfect for my great-grandchildren, whose ages range from pre-school to kindergarten. So, I am taking one small step forward and buying several books for them, including Each Kindness, The Youngest Marcher, A Letter to Amy and Whistle for Willie.
I know that ultimately words and books should not be the end of our children’s education about racism. But for me, it is one small step forward. . .as I consider the next step toward making a contribution to end racism.