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  • Writer's pictureRobyn


Look at the bookshelves

I try to do the right thing as an adult and a parent. And I genuinely don't think I do too badly. But occasionally you get challenged by something, and if you stop to look, you realise that there's a hole. I'm sure there are lots of holes in my parenting - there must be in everyone's - it is fundamentally impossible to be perfect. But, there are some that when you see them you realise that it's a blind spot that you have to do something about.

You'd have to be living in an especially gloomy cave not to have noticed the explosions across America. I've spent hours reading the coverage, some of it fills me with despair and horror and some with hope that things will change. My opinion of Trump, which like so many times, I didn't think could fall any further, has plummeted once again. I think he might have confused us with his alarming idiocy over his handling of Covid that I was once again blindsided by his capacity for cruelty. I know I write this as a white woman. I knew there was a massive problem, I did not know that the problem was so sprawling, so entrenched and so very very violent.

I don't live in America, but I do live in an England where the Prime Minister has repeatedly made cruel, crass and racist statements. Where only yesterday a report came out that the MET police issued way more fines to black people than to whites during the severest part of lockdown. Where Covid19 has had a disproportional impact on BAME communities as a result of systemic underfunding and lack of equlity in education and opportunity. I don't live in America, but I don't live in an equal country.

So, back to the books. Amongst all the articles on the protest, I've also read a lots about what I can do from my bubble of white privilege. I'm a teacher and I'm a parent - again - I thought I wasn't doing too badly. I've never heard my children say anything that could be remotely considered as being racist and I call it out and have conversations with my students when it comes out in class. Then I stumbled on an article about raising anti-racist children and then another one with a list of books and I saw the giant hole.

I didn't have to do this in order to know what it was going to look like, but I did it none the less. These are the books currently in Sally's bedroom sorted into piles.

Books where everyone is white

Books where there are images or secondary characters who are black or of colour

Pretty much just animals

Books that are either properly diverse or the lead is black or of colour

Looking back at these piles, I managed to get a few in the wrong places, but Cleo was 'helping' & the mice of Brambly Hedge are pretty white. How, how? How is the white pile so enormously large? It's so large one would think I'd done it deliberately. It would have been even bigger if I'd gone and fetched the books out of Pip's room. There would have been a couple to add to different piles too - but the white pile and the animal pile would have won the most.

I'm not suggesting that this is creating mini- racial terrorist, nor do I think its a problem that too late to fix. Reading about Ella Fitzgerald with Sally last night we talked about how there used to be laws that stopped black people going in some places that were white only. She thought this was bafflingly strange, just as odd as Emmiline Pankhurst not being allowed to go to university because she was a woman. She does also get a lot of reading books from school that are a lot more deliberately diverse. But whilst I knew my shelves weren't very diverse, it wasn't until I looked at the stacks that it was clear quite how much of a white wash they are.

The kids are small and they have yet to learn too much that they need to unlearn. They attend a school and nursery significantly more diverse than I did as a child and I hope that some of the ideas I internalised as a child wont ever manifest for them to be things to unlearn. But when it comes to the bookshelves, whilst Sally thinks it's ludicrous that anyone should be treated differently according to the colour of their skin, it's my job to show the kids a world that doesn't have them at the centre.

So, what do to?

there are a lot of lists at the moment & these are just a few.

These arrived in the post yesterday, I can't change the pile overnight, but I can make a start.

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