And ‘OMG’ is for ‘I can’t believe how many people have an issue with this author’s perspective!’
The last time I was up in Canada, my friend gave me a crisp 100 Canadian dollar bill right before I left, because she said she had had trouble purchasing texts online from Amazon, and wondered if I wouldn’t mind ordering some of what she called ‘Black positive’ children’s books from the site for her 20 month old daughter, and shipping them back up. I ordered the bulk of the books online, but still had a few bucks left to burn and when I went to the campus bookstore the other day, because I was trying to kill some time I happened to see this one. What caught my eye at first was that it was an obvious board book with the word ‘Activist’. A board book usually translates to it being for children around 2 so I thought it was super cool to have one about this topic geared towards such a young audience, especially since my friend herself is a human rights activist. And I couldn’t get past the cute little brown fist that looks like it could be either a ‘power’ fist or the letter ‘A’ in American Sign Language. The book goes from A-Z, talking about activism, banners ‘bobbing in the sky,’ ‘cooperation,’ ‘democracy,’ ‘equality,‘ ‘feminism,‘ ‘grassroots’ — and when I got to the part and saw a Black woman breastfeedng — well, I’m sure you know how I felt about that.
I liked it so much that later that day I did a google search on it, but that is when I started sighing after seeing all of the issues folks had with it. Just as an example, many of the people who responded to the reviews, in the comment section (which I know I should never read) were calling it socialist propaganda, LOL, saying that children will grow up to be ‘mindless robots,’ and that this isn’t appropriate for toddlers. Someone said that this author ‘obviously doesn’t care about children and is only trying to advance his socialist agenda,’ and that children ‘should be reading texts about family, animals’ — something like that. Another one said it was ‘war on the minds of our future leaders’. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at all of this but it was funny to see these people’s reactions to this book that clearly challenges the notion of whiteness, cultural genocide and supports critical thinking. I can only imagine the race, gender, geosocial and political location the commentators are from, if you get my drift. I thought it was tellng to see that neither of them brought up anything about how the absence of discussions about these same topics means that various behaviors that have been deemed ‘normative’ go unchecked and then discuss the slew of problems that has and continues to create. I felt compelled to add my own two cents:
‘C’ is for Coercion. I bet these same people who criticize this one don’t bat that same eye at a book like ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ — that teaches kids that coercing someone to doing something they did not want to do, and being persuaded to do something you did not want to do is OK. How many women do you know of who have been coerced into having sex — with men or another partner — their boyfriends or other significant others, who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, yet because of the constant pressure of said partner and his pleading, they gave in when they really didn’t want to? ‘Do you like it? No! But you will. No I won’t. Yes you will, No! Let me change it up a bit. Do it. Do it. Do it now! OK.’
‘R’ is for Disney books that stock the shelves of countless households yet are infused with racist ideology against People of Color as well as other forms of detrimental psychological programming. Does the Frog Princess and anti-Black male (what some have called ‘interracial propaganda’) ring a bell?
‘W’ is for WHITENESS that is plastered over most books, yet never discussed. This is because whiteness is so normalized, and reproduced, and is a perfect breeding ground to develop this ‘propaganda’ in the minds of children, planting the seed of white culture in their minds.
‘S’ is for Santa — seriously, how many books about Santa Claus and Christmas line the shelves of folk’s homes? Do I really need to go into detail on praising greed, dishonesty, exploitation of humans, exploitation of animals, exploitation of the environment? Consumerism, slavery, white savor??
I personally think that even if folks aren’t keen on the idea of ‘radical’ children’s books, this provides another perspective from hearing the same old story we have been on things I mentioned above, and more. God forbid we talk to our children about….. gasp…….equity!
I appreciate this book. So much so that of course I bought one for the baby, and after I did a few days later I found myself back at the bookstore — to buy one for me! I could say more about this one but for now I say we get back to the lecture at hand..