Monday, March 23, 2015

Parenthood – Week 94: The Book Sale

Last week my school had a used book sale. Parents and other community members donate books to this sale and the proceeds raise money for the school. It’s an awesome opportunity to buy kids books. They sell board books for $0.50 a piece (which is a steal when you realize that many of these book are over $5 when bought new) and regular hardback children book for $1.

In previous years, I ignored the books sale. I really don’t need more books that I own and plan to read but never get around to reading. However every since we’ve had Ollie, it’s been an incredible opportunity to get children books. Yes, some of the books are a little chewed up, literally, but most are in great shape.

After buying a bunch of board books, I came back the second day to look at children’s hardcover books. After about twenty minutes of shopping I came across a really cute book in which the main character expressed his love to his mother. Then I noticed that the boy in the book was caucasian with blond hair. I quickly looked over the other 10 books I had already picked out and almost all of the books featured caucasian main characters.

I put that book down and furiously started looking through the books for any books that featured people that looked like Ollie. I found one book that featured Chinese characters and ended up replacing a couple of the books I had chosen that had caucasian main characters with books that featured animals.

It is a privilege to go to a used book sale and expect to find books that feature characters of your own race. A caucasian male would have had no issues finding a book from his perspective at the book sale. However, there were no children’s books that featured a mixed race character.

Would Ollie notice if all of the characters in his books were all caucasian? Probably not right now, but if this persisted, you never know.  Would the same shameful and disturbing developmental processes that led to African-American children preferring the caucasian dolls in the research included in the Brown Vs. Board of Education could appear in Ollie?  Probably not because of other factors, but that doesn't mean this isn't something we need to be conscious of as parents.

Ollie is a minority. While there are a growing number of mixed race children being born every day, his specific brand of mix-raced will always be in the minority. Some day he will understand this and it's important that we help him recognize that his background and his perspective is valued by making sure that the literature and media that he is surround by includes people of color.

I was really upset when I realized that there were no children books that I could find that had a characters that was Asian-American. I know that there are authors who are doing the best they can to address this need, but it’s still tough. It’s hard to know that my son enters this world with less than others (at least in the children’s book a category), because of nothing he has done but because of the reality of the world he was born into and for a moment, this made me really sad.

Here’s the thing: I have grown over the years to love who I am, which has a lot to do with my wife Diana’s support. I know that being a minority has contributed significantly to me becoming the man that I am. I know that being mixed race will help Ollie become an amazing person, and that while he will have unique struggles, all people do. I just want to make sure that he knows that he’s not alone, so I will keep looking for books that remind him of that fact.

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