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A new year creates a new level of racial awareness in children’s literature

LatinaLista — While the Obama Administration would prefer to make race a footnote issue, a new study illustrates that race is very much an issue regarding Newbery-awarded children’s books and warrants serious attention.
While every New Year is seen by most as the start of a fresh chapter in our lives, it’s especially true for 2009. Barack Obama’s inauguration as the nation’s 44th President and first biracial Commander in Chief signals a new national chapter on racial awareness.
What does that mean?
For a nation where people of color totaled 102.5 million in 2007 ” that’s 34 percent of the total population” the Obama presidency marks a milestone that may finally get the attention of some of the other 66 percent who still see people of color as the stereotypes perpetuated by popular media. Or at the very least, see people of color in narrowly defined roles in society.
Not even after eight years of watching such high-profile political figures as Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and Alberto Gonzalez come and go in the White House did it count towards elevating the national dialogue on race.
Now it does.
The ramifications of Obama’s presidency go well beyond what he will directly do to lead this country. It will hopefully impact areas that could benefit from a heightened awareness of race— like children’s literature.
Thanks to Brigham Young researcher Tony Nisse, who authored a Diversity in Newbery Children’s Literature – AEJMC.doc analyzing diversity in Newbery Medal-awarded books, we find disappointing news when it comes to the track record of awarding the elite children’s literature award to books that feature children of color as the main characters.
According to Nisse, the last time a Newbery-awarded book had a black protagonist was eight years ago. For a book with a Latino main character, it’s unbelievably worse —43 years ago!
Continue reading A new year creates a new level of racial awareness in children’s literature

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  • Sandra
    January 3, 2009 at 7:26 am

    In summay “racial awareness” is what keeps racism and division alive. Why not just think of yourself as just a human being?

  • Marisa Treviño
    January 3, 2009 at 8:24 am

    We forget that it was gender awareness promoted by early feminists that pushed book publishers to recognize that girls could be as equally smart and adventurous as boys. Thanks to those efforts, girls and boys can read today that girls are equally comparable to boys in achieving. Thinking ourselves as just human beings would never have helped our society get a fresh perspective on girls. The same goes for racial awareness.

  • Michaela
    January 3, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    All due respect Marisa, but constantly shoving the blatant lie that Americans still do not accept “people of color” is what is causing the rise of racism in this country. You are causing formerly non-racist persons to become racist because of your constant villification of us. How much do you think people are going to put up with? Do you not get sick and tired of a whiny child? That is how you and your type are now perceived by Americans, nothing but a bunch of whiners. And you truly expect us not to detest you?

  • Michaela
    January 3, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Marisa, here’s a question for you I am sure you will ignore:
    How many Anglos are portrayed in children’s literature in Mexico or Latin America???? Maybe Americans should start whining about THAT!!
    Seriously, the only reason we have so many Latinos in this country is because they
    have FORCED THEIR WAY IN through illegal immigration over the past 40 years!
    We now have a large population of Latinos who are now
    whining that they are not being adequately represented in children’s literature!

  • Sandra
    January 3, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    I disagree with your analogy of gender vs race, Marisa. Gender isn’t dividing our country but race is.

  • Sandra
    January 4, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Gender however isn’t dividing this country, race is.

  • Sandra
    January 4, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Let me clarify my statement a little bit better. Racial “awareness” is what is dividing this country.

  • Challis
    January 5, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    well, let me tell you a little bit about my experience with Latinos in the US.
    I hate to tell you, but they tend to get a crash course on racism from us (Americans).
    I have had many conversations with immigrants who do not understand the divide (culturally) between Americans who are black or white.
    I recently spoke with a guy from El Salvador who told me that someone had asked him if he listened to ‘black’ music. He was thouroughly confused.
    We started talking about race in the US and I explained to him that in our country, in the not-so-distant past, that blacks and whites had different water fountains/bathrooms ect.
    He was floored! He had seen a documentary on the integration of Central High, but some of the things about our nation’s past, he truely thought were some sort of exaggeration.
    In Mexico you will see people of all colors; black, white, brown, yellow. But they do not have the cultural divide that we have in the US, and not growing up with that racism, it is hard for them to understand.

  • Sandra
    January 6, 2009 at 8:08 am

    First off Challis let me reiterate that the U.S. is the most diverse on this planet therefore that creates an atmosphere of ethnic group resentment and competition. That is why the multi-cultural advocates are wrong.
    Yeah, right, there’s no racism in Latin America or Mexico! Give me a break! They might not have had segregated water fountains, but they do have racism. It’s just more subtle than the racism here pre-Civil Rights days. The indios are treated like crap in Mexico. Why are the pure indigenous the poorest and least educated in Mexico? They don’t even have the opportunity for an education unlike HERE where we educate their children preschool through grade 12 FOR FREE and give them free breakfasts and lunches on top of it all! And many of them also attending higher education to boot!
    Mexico does not have a “color line.” They have a “color continuum.” Meaning that Hispanics of Spanish/European descent are on the top, followed by the lighter-skinned Mestizos on down to the bottom with the darker skinned Indios occupying the lowest positions in their society.
    Save it for someone who doesn’t know, Challis.
    And there we have another one who married a Mexican and is now pro-amnesty. Another xenophile. Loves the “other,” but hates her own people and country.
    How long is you going to keep dredging up the Jim Crow days?? That was only in the Southern states and it ended quite a while ago. How many centuries have to go by until people like you stop dredging it up to dig a ditch under their country?
    Latin America had slaves also! How do they think all of the black people got to Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and other places?
    I just get so sick of these America haters always making this country out to be this big, bad country.
    “All races” exist is such harmony in Mexico. Oh, really???? How the hell many “other” races are there in Mexico, Challis??? They don’t call it the “Mestizo nation” for nothing! Here’s the breakdown: 60% Mestizo, 30% pure indigenous, and about 10% white. The “other races”–Asian, black, Middle Eastern–are so negligible they aren’t even counted! Give me a break!
    By contrast, the U.S. is fully one-third non-white! And MOSTLY through immigration! When Mexico brings in fully one-third of their population from Africa, Asian, the Middle East, THEN WE’LL TALK ABOUT how “tolerant” they are of other races and cultures!
    And one last thing: the left WILL NOT allow racial resentments to die down as they NEED racial divide to advance their political agenda. As Marisa herself says: we need more “racial awareness.” So don’t come crying when we are not a colorblind society as was the wish of Dr. Martin Luther King. Don’t come crying when people are judged by their race instead of the content of their character. You can’t have “racial awareness” and a colorblind society. It doesn’t work both ways! Which way do you want it?

  • Challis
    January 6, 2009 at 11:30 am

    I never said there was NO racism in Latin American countries, I was just relating some of my personal experiences about the Latino view of racism in America.
    I have lived in Mexico, in Quintana Roo, where there is a divide between ‘Mexicans’ and ‘Mayans’. So, in no way am I saying that there is not racism in other countries.
    However I seemed to have hit some sort of nerve with you (or, more likely you are reacting to other posts that I have made).
    I love my country.
    I love that we finally have a Democratic president.
    I also love the South, which is where I was born and raised and where I reside now, SO YES, my view point will be different since I am south of the mason-dixson line.
    Try to get past what you THINK I am saying and look at what I am ACTUALLY saying.
    (I also never said I was pro-amnesty, so give ME a break)

  • Sandra
    January 6, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Go back and read your post again right before my post. The ENTIRE POST was about how Mexicans “get a crash course on racism” when they come here to the U.S.! It was all about the culture shock they experience when they come to this “racist” country. The insinuation being that they’ve never experienced racism in Mexico and didn’t know the meaning of the word until they set foot in the big, mean ole racist U.S.!
    So you are from the South? Well that explains a lot. You are most likely full of white guilt over the “racist legacy” of the South. Get over it Challis. Unless YOU YOURSELF committed any acts of racism, drop the white guilt and get on with life. Throw off the chains of collective guilt.
    I also noticed that you didn’t respond to my point about how the left wants to keep the racial divide going for their political gain. You didn’t comment on Dr. King’s dream of a color blind society and how the left is now calling for more “racial awareness,” the complete antithesis of a colorblind society where only the content of character matters. Good dodge.

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