Monthly Archives: April 2019

White People Apologizing

Recently, there have been a few prominent instances of white people apologizing for racist behavior.

Early this morning I came across Martha Brockenbrough’s excellent Twitter thread on this prompted by two situations. One is Anita Hill’s refusal to accept Joe Biden’s apology for his culpability in the dreadful way she was treated during the Clarence Thomas hearings. The other is the demand for an apology in a letter here (cosigned by hundreds, myself included) from the Children’s Book Guild of DC for the racist treatment of a guest during one of their luncheons.

Now the Children’s Book Guild has issued a response. Unfortunately, it is lacking, in my opinion, due to this sentence:

This interaction and subsequent steps caused a guest pain and seemed to demonstrate racial and cultural insensitivity.

We white folk needs to take complete and utter responsibility when something goes wrong, when something IS racist (not seems to be). Apologies should not be qualified this way. They need to be complete, to show — for writers it is sad that this more about telling than showing — true contrition, true awareness of racism, true understanding of white supremacy, of white privilege. (I’m assuming the guild has IPOC members, but the offensive incident was caused by a white woman.)

Additionally, I want to say something about the art of saying sorry. Over the decades I’ve been a teacher there has been far too great an emphasis on the words “I’m sorry” without the necessary action and change of feeling that is what is really important. I wrote on Twitter in response to Martha’s thread:

As a teacher I’ve always argued that insisting that kids say “I’m sorry” without action behind it is meaningless. My superiors and colleagues have not always understood my problem with this. Thanks for clarifying that it is all about the abusers, not the victim. 1/2

About making those at fault feel better over helping them do better. 2/2

All to say, we white people have to do better. A start is better apologizing.

 

ETA. Debbie Reese has been tweeting as well about this situation and has just pointed out to me in a comment that the statement has been altered slightly, but not in a way that shows true recognition of this being racist and of remorse.  Still not my idea of an apology. Wonder why they are so reluctant to simply apologize and own their racism.

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Debbie Reese on “An Indigenous Critique of Whiteness in Children’s Literature”

I highly recommend viewing Debbie Reese’s Arbuthnot’s lecture “An Indigenous Critique of Whiteness in Children’s Literature.” You will learn, think, and consider. I have known Debbie for decades and she has pushed my thinking in uncountable ways. The lecture was live-streamed and archived here.

Dr. Debbie Reese is a critic and scholar whose research and writings on representation of Indigenous people in children’s and young adult literature have informed the work of librarians and teachers and other scholars across the country. Her work, including on her American Indians in Children’s Literature web site and blog, is an essential resource for practitioners today. She was selected to deliver the 2019 May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture in Madison, Wisconsin.

This lecture, An Indigenous Critique of Whiteness in Children’s Literature, is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, the UW-Madison School of Education, the UW-Madison Information School, the Friends of the CCBC, and the Ho-Chunk Nation.

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Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Suggestions Please!

I’m chairing the current committee for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards and would love suggestions of your favorites. For the categories of Fiction/Poetry, Nonfiction, and Picture Books we are looking at titles published between June 1, 2018 and May 31, 2019. You can see the award guidelines here.

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