Recently I was in Hawaii on vacation and one of the things I noticed right away was how Asians are the majority of the people living there. In the city of Honolulu on Oahu, street signs are in English and Japanese. Generally rice, and even miso soup, are served with all meals, including breakfast. I learned from attending a luau that immigrants from Japan, China, and the Philippines make up a big part of Hawaii’s cultural diversity. When I got back home, a quick web search revealed that Hawaii is the only state in the United States where whites are not the majority of the population.
These children, honestly answering questions about race and racism, illuminate some of the problems we have talking about race in America. We know that children as young as 6 months old respond to skin color, so when the kids at the beginning of the video don’t know the words race, ethnicity, or racism, that’s a problem: they don’t know how to address their own reactions and experiences. They’re not having the conversations they need to understand the complicated culture in which they live.
I LOVE the Olympics. I’ve spent many (er, too many) hours over the past week mesmerized by ice dancing, ski cross, super-giant slolom, half pipe. . . these athletes make it look like somebody literally turned off gravity in Vancouver for the week and the laws of physics no longer apply.
Still, it’s hard not to notice how white the US Olympic Team is. If this is a team sent to represent one of the most diverse countries in the world, well, it doesn’t look all that representative. Take a look at this year’s 218 Team USA members and you’ll see what I mean. I could count the number of African Americans on one hand. Out of 218! What about Latinos, Asian Americans? Some…but not that many.
This week we’re starting close to home: from the New York Times, an article on the lack of diversity at top New York City Schools—and a reminder that a lack of diversity doesn’t mean that everyone is white.
A long but very interesting paper looks at the role parents’ English ability plays in the juvenile justice system.
Welcome to Black History Month!
Heritage Months have their bad sides and good sides, but we’re starting out this week’s linkup with one of the good things to come out of Black History Month: The Brown Bookshelf‘s Twenty-Eight Days Later project, highlighting a Black children’s book author or illustrator every day in February. Check their blog for great contributors to the field. Today they’re talking with one of our own authors, Natasha Anastasia Tarpley. Shadra Strickalnd, Tony Medina, and Christine Taylor-Butler will be featured later in the month.
The number of children’s books featuring racial, ethnic, or cultural diversity has not kept pace with the growing diversity of the United States population. Census data from 2008 shows that 34% of the population is minorities. In contrast, the number of children’s books reflecting diversity is about 13% of the books published each year. Since 1994, when the Cooperative Children’s Book Center started to keep statistics of children’s books published by and about people of color, I’ve watched this percentage inch up and down. But there has never been a significant improvement or decline.
It’s bitterly cold outside (at least here in New York), so stay inside and read! Here’s this week’s selection of articles and essays.
Last month we shared an Indian ad for White Beauty, a skin-lightening cream. Now, a study is highlighting the dangers of these types of products, many of which contain steroids or mercury. A NYTimes Op-Ed looks beyond the products and into the roots of their popularity with an exploration of colorism, the tendency to be biased towards people with lighter skin, even within one’s own racial or ethnic group.
It’s a couple years old (Bush was president, remember those years?), but Iranian American comedian Maz Jobrani still hits several nails on the head when talking about being Middle Eastern in America:
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Gregory Brothers created a musical remix of his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, delivered the night before his assassination in April 1968.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Haiti, and those with family or friends there. Remember when giving to relief efforts that only nonprofits who already have operations in Haiti are situated to give immediate assistance. Aid Watch brings an explanation of why this is the case and suggestions for how to respond, and the U.S. State department is offering a super-easy way to donate: “text ‘HAITI’ to ‘90999’ and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.” Via Ta-Nahisi Coates, Haitian American Evan Narcisse writes about what Haiti means to him, and about its role as the first black republic and fusion of art forms that makes it an amazing place.