A mother explains why a picture book is ‘anti-racist’

Now, if you don’t want your daughter to grow up to judge everyone by race, you might want to consider educating her about this. No wonder everyone’s so nervous. You see, some children are so sensitive that the slightest deviation from conventional racial speech can send them into an epic racing panic.

Call it critical race theory. Read a perfectly normal book about black people and they freak out. Such is the case with Scarlett’s Rebellion, a picture book that I’ve held onto for over 10 years, and with which I’ve spent countless hours and delighted my four children with. It was published in 2003, and depicts two sisters, one white and one black, who are sitting on a bench and discussing their characters’ color and race differences. One of the siblings gets stumped. The other sister says, “Love knows no color!”

“Is that what she said?” the white sister asks, flustered. “Nah, that’s how we like it,” the black sister answers. All of a sudden, the white sister is utterly stunned, saying, “I just can’t understand what she meant! What is she talking about? She said love knows no color!”

Yes, the black sister says she wants to love her brother just as much as her white brother, even though the white sister immediately changes her mind. The white girl somehow finds it so shocking that she rushes to the counter, picks up the book and throws it in the trash. Even the purple person who screams “It’s racist!” when I show them the book continues to cry when they get a copy of the booklet saying that it’s acceptable to read the book after preschool, and so, the young anti-racists (or kids who love images and colors, anyway) who were angry that the white girl said “it’s racist” will have to accept the book as a useful book that helps them learn about what they dislike about their lives.

It’s not easy.

Recently, a parent wrote to a local newspaper condemning the novel: “If you’re going to teach our kids that a black family like mine was or is ‘just like everybody else,’ please tell me, what other stories on the subject could you give to them?” That same parent insisted, “We’re all equal — black, white, Hispanic, Asian, whatever.” That one parent could so vehemently defend their assertion of equality while so vilifying what a hero — that word again — the black hero did in the story defies comprehension.

The person who wrote the letter told me that for her, the girl in the story isn’t a role model, and that they don’t want their young daughter to grow up to feel she must have that role model. Did she think the character in the book was a role model? I don’t remember whether she says anything else in the book.

I understand that parents are concerned about their child’s well-being. So should they be concerned with the child’s well-being and values, or with the character she develops in a public place? Should they be more concerned with her attitudes, or the dynamic between a brother and sister?

I could have, and would have, helped my child feel she was like everybody else if it had meant she couldn’t enjoy the movie The Hate U Give, in which the boy race-tests a girl to determine whether she’s smart. It’s a movie in which a movie score told a child to be kind to other races, even as that character is caught beating a boy to death with a baseball bat.

So maybe the picture book about a brother and sister sitting on a bench discussing race needn’t frighten you. Please just sit with the book, as you would anything. But please imagine how it would make you feel had I done something similar. If you feel this way, too, don’t fret. You can help my children feel you don’t want them to grow up to go to church — and walk out from it, too.

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