Thursday, 27 February 2014

Racism in Childrens books...

This is something I have not thought very much about until recently and probably only through my political and sociology studies have I thought about these things and the importance of reading books to the twins.

Books are a powerful tool for shaping a childs world and to me being selective over which books they read at a young age is important.

There are a number of books that I have discovered and found have racist language and undertones which actually surprised me, but really the age of the books first publication and popularity in certain eras should have been a huge indicator and when you delve in to the authors background all becomes even clearer.

I bought a box set of Dr Seuss books which are hugely popular and I had the intention of doing some fun work with the kids with them, but the first book I read  had the word 'Wog' quite early on in the book, I had to stop and re read the word, 'Wog' it took me by surprise I read on and the name refers to the 'Wog Frog' ... I stopped and thought what kind of author puts that kind of word in a childs book in this day and age. 

The word 'Wog' to me has definite negative connotations and as a child the word was particularly hurtful so obviously if there had been a trigger warning I may have been better prepared or in fact I could have avoided it altogether.

I actually stopped reading the book and took to Google where I soon found out why the word was in there he was actually a racist as you can see from these Ads he produced. 

At least my question was answered and the books went in the bin.

A similar thing happened with Enid Blyton when I fell upon a newspaper article a while back debating whether to allow her festival to go ahead or not and since then I have discovered a miriad of popular children's books and Authors that have racist undertones.

Of course I would imagine how the average person would not bat an eyelid and say I was being silly but of course they are not the ones who have had to live with being racially abused particularly as a child.

Books like this perpetuate the behaviour and give it a normality, one thing I will not do is teach my child that Racism in any form is normal, as it isn't and to me that is what shapes a society, 'normalise it and it wont be as bad', 'it will prepare them for their future' etc etc etc, all the narrow minded tripe,  sorry not my way of thinking, eradicate is my way forward.

It is something that is cut out of my life like a cancer I do not tolerate it and will not have my kids exposed to it in any way shape or form.

What I will do is not deprive them of reading these classics, they will read them when they are a lot older and able to understand the context that they should be read in, which is an indicator of the times gone past and what was once acceptable and it will be a good way to show them in a historical context the extent racism poisoned every man woman and child of this land, the attitudes that perpetuated colonialism, small indicators of how society was once shaped and why it is such a difficult thing to change when you have books like this still circulating today, rolled out across all schools despite the political and sociological consequences that no one thinks about.

There is a huge list of classics that have racist, undertones and racist language but I would be here all day and some of them have been brought into the times we live in now. 

Some you will be surprised at and probably loved yourself as a child, some I already knew where racist as it is hard to ignore even as a child some of the language used and forgetting the way it made you feel uncomfortable.

I do find it quite surprising that this issue has not really been raised in the popular press or that there has never been a campaign of any nature here in the UK, In Germany there was a campaign to get these books off the shelves after a child complained about  how it made her feel.

Although I don't think the right thing to do would be to change the books in any way, they should be left as they are and not altered, they are classics and should be respected as such.

It is only with my inquisitiveness from the Enid Blyton accidental find that I was even aware there was some kind of issue, but looking right into the topic leads me to believe this is a real issue in this day and age. Maybe not to those who are not a target but certainly for anyone that is a target in these books.

It has certainly made me think about what my kids are reading and the connotations of these books but it has also given me a great tool to teach my twins about historical racism in the UK.

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