Press For R is for Racism

Guided: Tell me about how your childhood memory of finding a racist epithet in a library book became the “R is for Racism” project.
Tasha Burton: When I first remembered that I’d seen this book, I asked several people if they’d ever seen a children’s book like this before. Many of them said, no, they definitely had not. And then I asked a few more people, gradually they were like, “Well, maybe I did see something like this as a kid, but it didn’t occur to me that it was something that may have been derogatory or racist.” And when I actually ordered the first few, I showed it to [the people I’d talked to], and they were all completely shocked.

I began thinking about the perspective of a child seeing these books as opposed to an adult like me, who could look at these images and see immediately that they were offensive. And then, of course, I started wondering about exactly where racism is learned, right? It’s mostly at home—as much as we want to say that outside factors are the biggest reason why racism is perpetuated, the root of the idea is almost always planted in the home by some type of figure who makes a great impression on a child.

A lot of people want to argue that they don’t say racist things, and definitely not around their kids. But even if you think you don’t do it at home, any little remark that you might make—like, kids are always listening. Even if it’s just some passing comment in your car, or at the grocery store, these are things that children hear, and they’re able to recognize who it’s being directed to.

So I just wanted to put it out there. And these books are a great example; racist things like this were put into children’s books, and kids read them at a time when their minds were like sponges.

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Tasha Burton