Saturday, April 28, 2007

colorblindness, the "new" justification for institutional racism

Just for my own education and as resources for talking to other white people about racism, I have started collecting articles and studies pointing out institutional racism in this country. It is amazing how much evidence of institutional racism exists in just about every area - environment, housing, health care, education, and more. But, so many white people refuse to see it and even argue against it.

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Colorlines, a magazine whose tagline reads "The national newsmagazine on race and politics." It's really an excellent publication. Its March/April 2007 feature is on racial disparities in healthcare and the conscequences of 'colorblind' policies on the health of people of color. Important information!

The article, What Your Doctor Won't See... If conservatives make helthcare "colorblind", incorporates a wide scope, discussing trends in the perception of inequalities:

For three decades, conservative thinkers have worked mightily to discredit race-based considerations in public policy and cement the belief that America today is, as it sould be, a colorblind society. "It really begins in the early '70s," says Bard College sociologist Amy Ansell, author of New Right, New Racism. "Conservatives believe that with the civil rights movement the barriers were brought down, and that's when racism ends. At that point, government and society have nothing more to do."

Instead, (City University of New York (CUNY) researcher Jack) Geiger suggests, the answers are said to lie in changing the behaviors of people of color. Notably, . . . conservative activists do not deny the existence of inequality. To the contrary, says Tarso Luis Ramos, research director of Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank, they nominally share anti-racists' outrage over the gaps. "The rhetoric acknowldges disparities and even decries them on one hand, and on the other hand rejects proposals to reduce these disparities," Ramon says.

A circuitous intellectual route squares this circle of thought. Colorblind ideology rests on two premises: reducing racism to "individual acts of meanness," as Ramos puts it, and blaming uneuqal outcomes in any given area on the cultural norms of individuals affected. Like Ansell, Ramos traces the "new racism" to the years following the civil rights movement, and in particular the infamous Moynihan Report, which he argues established the idea the Blacks' troubles stem from destructive devolution of their culture.

In the ensuing years, Ramos says, rightwing thinkers and advocates built on this premise. They stroked America's individualist ethos as they steadily narrowed racism's definition to exclude broad, structural factors. And they drove home the idea that both oppression and liberation lie in individual rather than societal acts - that, where racism is concerned, I rather than we shall overcome. As a result, efforts like affirmative action are dismissed because they misdirect the burden of fighting racism on individuals. . .

I have noticed this trend myself. It is exhausting to fight against, but imperative.

While politicos argue about things like whether to use the word disparities or differences in reports, the problems, many of which are literally life-and-death issues, go unaddressed. Blacks, for instance, are dying at rates alarmingly higher - a full 40 percent!!!- than whites, according to a 2005 article in the journal Health Affairs, cited by Colorlines. The infant mortality gap between Blacks and whites doubled between 1950 and 2002.

I have just added my collection of studies and articles addressing institutional racism available in the side bar of this blog in the Recommended Online Reading section.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Environmental Racism is Real - check your facts

A reader commented on my Story beneath the Story post, claiming that the term "Environmental racism" is misleading. He wrote: "A more accurate term might be 'environmental classism.'" In sum, "If you are a minority you are also more likely to be poor, so the net result may be the same, but the motivations are economic, not racist."

What comes to mind is what Carmen at Addicted to Race calls "oppression olympics," a pattern of "competing" and arguing about which oppressed group has it worse, and in the process deminishing or denying valid experiences. What happens as a result is that groups pit themselves against each other instead of uniting for a common cause.

Well, in this case, the reader had it wrong. Though the socioeconomic factor is significant, numerous studies have shown that race and ethnicity are the single most determining factors in predicting toxic exposure from proximity to hazardous-waste sites in this country. For example:

"In the United States the single most important factor in predicting the location of hazardous-waste sites is the ethnic composition of a neighborhood. Three of the five largest commercial hazardous-waste landfills in America are a predominantly black or Hispanic neighborhoods, and three out of every five black or Hispanic Americans live in the vicinity of an uncontrolled toxic-waste site. The wealth of a community is not nearly as good a predictor of hazardous-waste locations as the ethnic background of the residents, suggesting that the selection of sites for hazardous-waste disposal involves racism. James T. Hamilton studied the zip codes in the US targeted for capacity expansion in plans by commercial hazardous waste facilities from 1987 to 1992. Locations for hazardous waste facilities had an average nonwhite population of 25 percent, versus 18 percent for those areas without net expansion. Hamilton suggests that differences in the probability that residents will raise a firm's expected location costs by engaging in successful collective action to oppose expansion offer the best explanation for which neighborhoods are targeted by polluting industries.[1] Another study in 1997 found that the communities most affected by hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities in the Los Angeles area are working-class communities of color."

Source: wikipedia

And more: Race, Waste, and Class: New Perspectives on Environmental Justice. The thesis: "Race is the central determining factor with toxic exposure."

And for a more current look, read this study, Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007, which states:

"More than nine million people (9,222,000) are estimated to live within 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of the nation’s 413 commercial hazardous waste f acilities. This represents 3.3% of the U.S. population (281,422,000). More than 5.1 million people of color, including 2.5 million Hispanics or Latinos, 1.8 million African Americans, 616,000 Asians/Pacific Islanders and 62,000 Native Americans, live in neighborhoods with one or more commercial hazardous waste facility. . .

". . . Racial disparities in the location of the nation’s commercial hazardous waste f acilities exist in all EPA regions. For Hispanics, African Americans and Asians/Pacific Islanders, statistically significant disparities exist in the majority or vast majority of EPA regions. Moreover, the pattern of people of color being especially concentrated in areas where facilities are clustered is also geographically widespread throughout the country. . .

". . . Racial disparities are more prevalent and extensive than socioeconomic disparities, suggesting that race has more to do with the current distribution of the nation’s hazardous waste facilities than poverty. "

So my response to those who want to deny racism and override it with classism arguments is this:

I hope that after reading this you won't turn a blind eye to the race factor. It's crucial to recognize racism as a huge factor in the denial of people's right to a clean and healthy environment. Denying racism in the arena of environmental justice is, in fact, racism.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Racism Still Poisons Decisions on Toxic Sites

As a follow-up to my piece on the beef I had with the MSNBC article that mentioned high cancer rates in minorities, but not a peep about environmental racism, here is something that I just found on the web.

Today there is an article on, implicating government of environmental racism. In the article, Racism Still Poisons Decisions on Toxic Sites, columnist Cindy Skrzycki discusses a recent report by the United Church of Christ in Cleveland. The report, Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty, according to Skrzycki, suggests "that decisions made by federal, state and local governments, as well as by companies, have penalized minority groups."

Skrzycki cites several examples of how racism influences the formation and interpretation of governmental policies on the environment. Her piece leaves the reader with a lot of questions, but at least it raises important points about institutional racism that are often omitted in mainstream news.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

story beneath the story

A lot of my posts on here have nothing to do with parenting - directly, that is. They have to do with awareness raising, which to me has everything to do with becoming an anti-racist, and anti-racist parenting just stems from that. So here goes one.

As far as news items go, there is always a story behind the story presented. I have learned to take almost nothing I read in the papers for face value and to read between the lines and follow my hunches on what is being left out. Well, an MSNBC story I read today said that recently researchers from Loma Linda University in California have stated that "racial disparity in cancer rates and outcomes may be driven by genetics as well as socioeconomic factors." In other words, the researchers found that genes may be to blame for the higher of cancer among minorities.

The socioeconomic factors eluded to in the story had to do with "lack of health insurance, poverty, cultural barriers, and limited access to good medical care." But what the story left out was that environmental and institutional racism play a huge part in this equation.

A recent report from the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, “which serves as an update to a landmark 1987 study uncovering the proximity of minority groups to hazardous waste sites across the country, found that an even larger number of Hispanics/Latinos and African-Americans live within two miles of one of more than 400 such facilities in the U.S.”

Hmmm. . . If genes and poverty are the sole culprits for high cancer rate, we, the readers and those at the center of the inquiry regarding cancer rates, are left with no agency. But what if racism is put in the spotlight, then we suddenly may have somebody (perhaps lawmakers & corporations/lobbyists or our own privilege to not have to care) to blame. Hmmm. . .

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

demonizing the racial "other"

This is an older post from another blog I am too busy to upkeep. I decided to cross-post it here, because I find it especially relevant in light of Bush's latest pet peave, his "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" platform, which, by the way, I spent an hour researching today, unable to find the detailed text of the bill. Government should be transparent. I always get angry when the public is excluded from the governmental process. Politicians are supposed to represent us and seek input from us, not withold information from us. Uggh!

I thought the post below is also relevant in light of the media's racialization of the Virginia Tech tragedy, which, I have the feeling will unfortunately play beautifully into the hands of the Bush cronies, who will use it to further stir up anti-immigrant sentiments, hoping to push through the above-mentioned and very problematic bill.

The reason I call the Immigration Reform bill problematic is because, as Angry Asian Man reveals, the "immigration reform draft (leaked to the public) could be as devastating as the Chinese Exclusion Act..." Various groups are are "calling the document's principles 'inhumane' and 'un-American' because it calls taking away the right of legal immigrants to sponsor their relatives to join them and breaking up families as a result."

See what I'm talking about? The text of the bill the groups are criticizing was leaked, not made accessible to "we, the people." So, the only part of the bill that I have learned about was the one dealing with legal immigrant sponsorship of relatives. What else is there in the bill, I would like to know!

First, let me explain how the post below relates to the topic of immigration reform and the Virginia Tech shooting. As more and more Americans feel the heat of the rising prices of oil, the plunging value of the dollar, decrease in living wage work opportunities, massive lay-offs, etc., the trend of scapegoating groups perceived as alien has increased. Additionally, since 9/11, policies have been put into place that have significantly curtailed the constitutional rights of the people in this country. Much has been written about many of these laws, passed by capitalizing on the public's (& politicians') irrational fears of immigrants and groups perceived by "mainstream" America as a racial "other." (For example, you can read Naomi Wolf's piece Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps). Thus Juan Santos's reference to fascism.

As you read, I recommend you add Asian to the quoted writer's references to the historically persecuted groups of color.

Now the post by Juan Santos, an LA-based writer and editor, about the need for white people to wake up to fight the fascist regime spreading in this country. Here is an excerpt:

Real oppression – and just as importantly the consciousness of one’s own oppression in the US - has next to nothing to do with the white left. . .

. . . Where are the no-fly-racially-profiled white “terrorists”? Where are white people required to prove their citizenship to rent an apartment? Where do whites come under instant suspicion for deportation? How many European whites are subject to the conditions in Guantanamo? How many have been tortured? How many whites have been stripped of the writ of habeas corpus, held without charges, without access to a lawyer? How many whites are among the native Indians, Blacks and Chicanos in the US, who together comprise the single group most targeted for incarceration in the world?

Obviously, there are none.

That’s why there is no mass movement against fascism in the US.

Because fascism targets the Other, and everyone damn well knows it.

. . . Even if it’s never spoken aloud, everyone knows in their bones that white people are exempt, that white people as a group are not the target of overt violent oppression in the US, and that they never have been and never will be. Guaranteed.

That guarantee is their blue pill, what makes them sleep.

The only people who’ve stood up en masse against the recent rapid escalation toward fascism in the US have been Brown people. Migrants and Chican@s stood up in our millions against the fascistic Sensenbrenner bill, a race law which would have rendered every migrant a felon, and every Chican@ a suspect in a felony. The Sensenbrenner bill would have made the barrio every bit as much a zone of official terror as the ghetto – even more so.

We were all that stood between the status quo and outright universalized fascism in the US.

But almost nothing and no one stood between colonized peoples of color and fascism in the US.

Black, Red and Brown have lived under virtual fascism - mass terror, police occupation and mass incarceration - for a generation now, since the War on Drugs and mass incarceration took the place of segregation and Jim Crow laws.

But it wasn’t the white US-er who was targeted, just like it wasn’t the German, but the Gypsy, Slav and Jew.

. . . Why, then should we be surprised at white silence today?

. . . White people could still wake up; they could still learn to resist the fascism that their culture has programmed them to accept.

But it will take a new understanding; they will have to start seeing themselves as a group like any other, not as a “white nation,” and not as “individuals,” and they will need to begin to understand and to break with the Inquisitorial fear of being different that permeates their culture to its very core. They will have to learn to see their culture’s depth of suspicion, its rigid obedience to the “rules” of the white middle class game, and to experience first hand the depth of violence it reserves for those who betray it.

They will have to stand strong against it, understanding that their own culture and its agents are their mortal enemy.

Most of all they will have to learn that their apparent “privilege” makes them no different at all: that in the long run they are not exempt or superior.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

the projectionist syndrome

Here is something I have to be careful about as a parent, especially with a child who has a limited capacity to communicate verbally as he is only a toddler. I'll call it the "Projectionist Syndrome." What I mean by that is that I've noticed that I sometimes have the tendency to project onto my child. I had a little bit of a wake up call a while back. I blogged about the incident here and more importantly here.

What happened was that my son began to cry one day at the supermarket. I totally misinterpreted the reason he cried, thinking it was because he got scared of a dark-skinned black cashier. Not so. He got scared of getting separated from me, which I realized when the incident repeated itself later, but with a white-like-me female cashier about the same age as I.

Such an incident just goes to show that misinterpreting my kid’s motives or behavior as -I don't want to call it racist at this age, but "racial"- can be a real issue – for all of us, I think. Was I projecting my own racist thoughts onto my son? I think so. At least I was definitely racializing my son's thoughts. And that’s not good, especially since I’m trying to be an anti-racist parent.

Since then, I have been trying to withhold judgment when it comes to my son’s reactions to his environment (unless he is outright violent, a common phenomenon at this age, as toddlers test their strength and influence on their surroundings). Instead of trying to interpret my son’s behavior through my own convoluted lens, I have been trying to remain open and to trust that young children are inherently pure and open-minded, unaffected by racism. So far, this has actually been the case. My son seems equally interested in interacting in all the myriad of ways in which he expresses himself with children and adults of various races and ages.

So, to go back to my initial statement, I am trying hard to make sure that I don’t project my own issues onto my son. I guess that is a good general guideline when it comes to parenting period, but especially as related to anti-racist parenting. To counter my tendency to project, I find myself constantly examining my own thought process and catching myself making unfounded judgments or thinking racist thoughts. Then I try to reprogram those ingrained voices. At the same time, I keep reminding myself to withold judgment when it comes to my child's behavior and to just watch and learn with new eyes. Tricky indeed, but I am noticing a huge shift within myself. I hope it's for the wiser...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

no more scapegoating immigrants

I'm so sick of hearing people say that the U.S. has an “immigration problem” and that immigrants drain “our” resources.

First of all, I’d argue that it’s U.S. governmental policy decisions that drain our resources, with the war in Iraq being number one on my list. This NY Times article, What $1.2 Trillion Can Buy or a website called National Priorities Project, which breaks down some of the budget cuts that the Bush administration has made to such crucial programs as health care and education.

Contrary to popular belief, immigrants are actually less likely to use health care and social services than non-immigrants. According to research published in 2005 in the American Journal of Public health, “per capita total health care expenditures of immigrants were 55% lower than those of US-born persons ($1139 vs $2546).” See this link for more information. Illegal immigrants, are even less likely to utilize health care services than other immigrants (and native-born Americans), though many pay taxes and purchase health insurance through their employers.

Take a look at this quote from a 2006 study published by the HARVARD Latino LAW REVIEW: “Undocumented immigrants living in the United States are subject to the same income tax laws as documented immigrants and U.S. citizens. However, because of their status most unauthorized workers pay a higher effective tax rate than similarly situated documented immigrants or U.S. citizens. Yet these workers and their families use fewer government services than similarly situated documented immigrants or U.S. citizens. Moreover, unauthorized workers have been denied remedies under the National Labor Relations Act by the U.S. Supreme Court, and they may be challenged to receive protection under wage and hour, anti-discrimination and workers’ compensation laws. As a result of all these factors, undocumented immigrants provide a fiscal windfall, and may be the most fiscally beneficial of all immigrants.”

Also, it’s important to note that immigrants actually stimulate the U.S. economy. According to a recently released study released by the Center for an Urban Future, during the past decade. . . immigrants have started more business than their American counterparts, “stimulating growth in sectors from food manufacturing to health care, creating loads of new jobs, and transforming once-sleepy neighborhoods into thriving commercial centers.”

I am citing all these studies, because I’m sick of immigrants baring the brunt of the problems creating by policy-makers. Please don’t be one of the people who blame immigrants for the resource-draining policies instituted by the Bush administration and others in the seat of power.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

what does anti-racist parenting/action look like?

Well, I'm thinking a lot these days about what anti-racist action looks like - for me, anyways. I'm actually having a hard time separating acting against racism from anti-racist parenting. I think it's all one and the same. I say that now while my son is still a toddler. That may change as issues associated with race come into play when he's older. At that point, there will, I'm sure be very specific parenting "techniques" that I will have to explore and employ.

I tend to think about things broadly. I see so many connections between things that sometimes it's hard to focus on something specific. So right now, anti-racist parenting has, for me, been about about the following:

- educating myself about racism, white privilege, and white supremacy

- challenging my own thought patterns and prejudices

- evaluating and altering my son's environment to make it inclusive of diverse people and messages (activities we do and books we read, mostly)

- writing and talking about my experiences & what I learn, esp. with white people with the intent of checking my thinking and nudging people to put anti-racist action to the forefront of their lives

- connecting with like-minded people to again, check my thinking, learn more, and continue feeling energized and inspired to do the work

- taking several larger scale initiatives (e.g. letters to the editor & continuing my membership to support a local independent community radio station, which airs excellent public affairs programs as well as shows by and about communities of color)

The part that I hope to improve upon is challenging racist speech and prejudices in my environment. I still find myself, most of the time, having difficulty doing this. I have challenged some stereotypes I've heard people say, but these interjections have been far and few between. I think I just need more practice.

What does anti-racist action look like for you, anti-racist parents, if you could generalize about some things you focus on?

letter to the editor challenging racism - w/ an update!

Update: Below is a copy of a letter to the editor I sent out on March 20, 2007. The magazine's tagline, by the way, is "women and children changing the world." This month's World Pulse update featured the following note from the editor:

Editor's Note: Our March 20 Spotlight edition ran a Reuters article entitled "Hungary's Radical Youths Take to the Streets." Astute comments from one of our readers, Tereza Topferova, led us to further investigate the article, as it seemed to glorify the efforts of the "radical youths" in question. We are currently reaching out to our contacts on the ground to gain a better understanding of the situation. In the meantime, we encourage you to explore what the following sources have to say about this radical group:

Country Report on Human Rights Practices - Hungary, 2006 (U.S. Department of State)

Far Right Tries to Take Control of the Revolt (The Times Online)

Original letter I sent to the editor:

Dear World Pulse editors:

As a former editorial volunteer, I am of course your publication's fan. I do enjoy receiving your e-mail spotlights as well. However, I found one of the news items included in your latest (March 20th, 2007) update, greatly disturbing, its message at odds with World Pulse's mission, which according to your website, is to broadcast the "wellspring of positive solutions. . . essential for solving today's cyclical global problems" while "advancing journalism, reframing global debates, magnifying movements, inspiring investment, and motivating action."

The news item I am referring to vaguely alludes to a movement. However, what kind of a movement, I had to research for myself. And what I learned about this movement and its underlying philosophy, after several hours of internet research, troubles me immensely, and brings me to the conclusion that such movements must not be magnified in any way or sanctioned by publications such as yours, because of their hateful, racist undertones.

The news article in question featured in your latest update, which is usually meant to inspire and highlight positive happenings around the world, was a Reuters story entitled "Hungary: Hungary's Radical Youths Take to the Streets".

At a quick glance, it would seem that the combination of the words radical, youth, and streets, would seem to point to a report on a demonstration staged by social justice oriented anti-globalization activists. I could see how this assumption could be made by your magazine's editors, too in a hurry to investigate the story further. However, in your spotlight underneath the article link, you did include a quote from the news report that raised a flag for me and hopefully for many other of your readers. I doubt, though, that most of them had the full knowledge of the issue at hand or the time to research it further. So, I have compiled some information that I hope exposes the "radicals" in this story the way they need to be exposed in the media. It is important that you circulate this information, because I strongly feel that
your publication's editorial credibility has suffered by your inclusion of this article.

The quote you published as a tease for the story is as follows: 

Soft-spoken, well-educated and armed with a laptop, 29-year-old Gabor Vona leads a radical right-wing group of young Hungarians usually at the forefront of anti-government protests that began late last year.

The words "right-wing" raised a flag for me, because I thought it strange that World Pulse would endorse an action by a group subscribing to radical, right-wing ideas.

After setting the scene by, in my opinion, vaguely and cursorily establishing the conflict between the current Socialist-led government of Hungary and its opponents, the article continues with a description of Vona, which should have been a clue for World Pulse editors: "'Vona, who has a history degree, admires the Hungarian regime which briefly regained lands lost in World War One by allying itself with Nazi Germany. He also considers the Roma minority a source of crime, though he denies being racist."

Vona leads a party called Jobbik, the article states. The Reuters article does a piss-poor job, I'd say, of explaining the platform of this organization. So, here is what I found out about Jobbik:

According to wikipedia, The Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom) is a radical right-wing political party in Hungary, led by Gábor Vona.

It was launched as a circle of friends of right-wing students at ELTE university in November 1999, under the name Jobboldali Ifjúsági Közösség ("Right-wing Youth Community"), in short, Jobbik. It spread over several other universities in the country and became a political movement. Its short name, Jobbik, is not only an acronym but a word on its own, meaning "the better one" (i.e., out of a closed set) as the word for "better" (and "right") is simply jobb in Hungarian.

And guess who endorses the group's activities? None other than the U.S.-based white supremacist organization National Alliance.

Roger Boyes of Times Online describes Jobbik as an extremist grouping, which allies itself with the Hungarian Justice and Life party (MIEP), whose leader István Csurka "is one of the most sinister figures in the nationalist undergrowth of Central Europe. His anti-Semitic rhetoric, denouncing Jews for their collaboration with communists and their role in global finance, is familiar territory. But Mr Csurka takes prejudice to crazy heights: 178 Hungarian estate agencies, he claimed, are in Jewish hands in a secret attempt to buy up the country."

These two groups are apparently "using the anti-government rallies to break free and carve out their own identity."

The U.S. Department of State website states that “In April [of 2006] during elections for the National Assembly, candidates of the nationalistic, far right-wing Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP-Jobbik) espoused xenophobic and anti-Semitic slogans. The party has not been represented in the assembly since 2002.”

Please take better care to research the news items you endorse. Your readership deserves at least that much.

Thank you,
Tereza Topferova

As a follow up, I would like to share a letter I received from the managing editor of World Pulse. In a nutshell, they invited me to become a volunteer regional curator, a person who helps advise their editorial team on the magazine content.

Dearest Tereza,

I apologize that it has taken us so long to respond to your astute letter. Our organization is just this week shifting from a 7-person team to a 15-person team, and we were all in retreat mode last week, figuring out how best to working together as we move forward. Please know that your comments are being taken very seriously and we are preparing a fulller section on the issue for our upcoming newsletter, taking your thoughts into consideration. It is of course of the utmost importance to us that we package and prevent events as responsibly as possible for our audience.

As we go through the process of expanding as an organization, our editorial team will also be expanding to include a volunteer team of regional curators -- people who listen and help advise our team on which voices to highlight across the editorial content for both World Pulse Media (our for-profit media enterprise) and World Pulse Voices (our nonprofit, which houses an online networking tool designed to facilitate social change). The scope of our project is huge and our asipirations high, as you have undoubtely surmised. Nonetheless we remain very seriously dedicated to our overarching mission of empowering the "women and children transforming our world." In order to be sucessfull, will be asking for a great deal of help from savvy, committed individuals such as yourself.

Our global voices director, Ramya, who will be establishing and fostering relations with this group of regional curators, is eager to contact you if you are interested in working together with our group in any way. Just say the word. And if this does not sound like something you are interested in, please know that you have an open invitation to contribute comments, ideas, contacts and stories at any time.

Again, many thanks for your careful reading and for honoring our mission enough to instigate a discussion.

Warmest regards,

Maria Jett
Managing Editor
World Pulse Media

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

a must-read for all white people & parents

Just discovered a great blog thanks to

This post, Helplessness of white people, is a must-read for all white people. We, white people, need to educate ourselves and each other about racism and white privilege. I totally agree!

I've heard countless times from people of color that they are sick of being put in the situation of having to educate white people about racism and privilege. It's an additional load on top of the racism people of color have to deal with. We, whites, need to take ownership of white supremacy and privilege. I am new to the struggle, but I realize at least that much. And check it out. There is so much already available, in the form of blogs, for example, for us to learn from. All we need to do, just to begin, is to take a little initiative instead of expecting information or validation to be served on a silver platter. We can read and learn and think without putting people on the spot or just being plain abnoxious. That isn't too much to ask, is it?

columnist on Anti-Racist Parent

I have been asked to be a columnist on I'm thrilled, but intimidated as well. I can't believe how fast things are moving. I only started this blog and committed to antiracist parenting in January! That's four months ago. Well, here is my first post, an introduction. I'll let you know when the next post appears.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

survey of diversity in my son's books

Inspired by Sue Lyons-Joell's survey of diversity in parenting magazines, published on, I decided to do my own little survey of my son's books.

I sorted his picture books, most of them geared towards toddlers, into piles:

- a pile of books featuring animals or objects (no people)
- a pile of books which include "visible minorities" (subjective definition, of course)
- a pile of books which incorporate white people or ambiguous/unknown people race-wise
- a pile of Dr. Seuss books only
- a pile of books in the Czech language (I am raising my son to be bilingual and bicultural).

Here are the results:

"Jay", who is nearly twenty-months old, has a total of 52 books.

Of those, 16 books focus on objects and animals, excluding humans all together.

9 are Dr. Seuss books, which incorporate humans that are either white or ambiguous-looking. One of Jay's Dr. Seuss book, My Many Colored Days, is quite problematic in that it equates colors, used to describe groups of people, with negative emotions and stereotypes. I blogged about this issue here. That book's got to go!

4 books are Czech picture books. Three of them include white people only (the Czech Republic does happen to be 97% white) and one has one page portraying a father and child of color (They are Roma). This page unfortunately reinforces stereotypes about the Roma people, because the two are shown dancing around the fire; a sort of primitive, tribal image very much removed from reality. This is something I hope to discuss and balance out with other portrayals when my son gets older.

10 books include "visible minorities", whether in drawings or photographs. However, none of my son's books has a person of color as a central character or depicts solely people of color.

Next, 12 books focus on whites or racially ambiguous people, whom I did not count as "visible minorities".

To sum up, only 19% of the total of my son's books and 28% of all his books featuring people, include "visible minorities", and 0% focus solely on people of color.

Time to go change that ASAP!