Who knew trying to find a set of state books could prove so disappointing. But as I mentioned in my previous post , a promising candidate did not meet my standards so it won’t live on my shelves anytime soon. In other words, it failed the anti-bias test. Especially when I examined the visuals for stereotypes, tokenism or invisibility.
Two photographs out of nine were of African-Americans. They were both in the Jazz chapter. This struck me as cause for concern. If a child’s only association with the African-American population of Louisiana is with jazz, it can lead to stereotyping, or at best limiting one-dimensional view of their experience.
I want a child to appreciate the wonderful contributions that the African-American community has made to music. But I want a more complex presentation so readers can understand and appreciate the diversity of African-American heritage.
In fact, I was also shocked that there were no photographs of Hurricane Katrina. A natural disaster, and the failure of government and its social structures can be a complicated topic to introduce to young readers. But omitting it is whitewashing a disturbing history from which we can all learn. And those in the 9th ward who are still suffering must feel a state of disequilibrium when such a life-changing event is ignored in a possible text-book.
I worry about another unconscious message that a young reader can absorb. All the images in the chapter about playing are of white people. Why not have more visual diversity that reflects the actual population shown at play?
I hope the state books published in 2015 will do a better job of an equitable presentation of the richness of all life experiences.