Controversy over NPR stories about race and books

Two weeks ago, NPR’s Weekend Edition ran a story about how to read books with racism to your children. It was inspired by Scholastics’ decision to stop printing and selling a children’s book that featured slaves cheerfully baking a cake for George Washington. NPR’s story was widely criticized, especially because of its White privilege and assumption that the audience reading the books is White. This weekend, Weekend Update acknowledged the criticism and revisited the story with Andrew Grant Thomas from EmbraceRace (to actually see how he responded to the criticism, and not just the criticism, you need to listen to the segment embedded in the page).  Some of the criticism of the Weekend Edition piece could not help but noting that, a few days before the original piece, NPR’s All Things Considered did a better job discussing this same book.  The ATC piece featured Allyson Criner Brown from Teaching for Change. This organization’s critique of the original Weekend Edition piece is excellent and provides many excellent recommendations and links. The critique is a must read. 

Hopefully I can share some of the many insights from those links, Teaching for Change, and EmbraceRace when I have a bit more free time. In the meantime, I will say that I’m afraid my earlier discussions of race on this blog may also have suffered from too much White Privilege or similar failings. For that I apologize and I hope to share how to do better than those in the future.

For now, I will leave you with this disturbing quotation from the critique by Teaching for Change:

With children’s books by/or about people of color representing only 14% of those published in 2014, better advice to parents would be to join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks call for a radical change in the publishing industry. The problem is well documented by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in “Children’s Books by and about People of Color and First/Native Nations Published in the United States.”

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