PART II: RACE and Books

I am now embarking on a new phase in my career and coming out of the classroom, even though there are still important opportunities to influence students Pre-k through higher education.  Getting here was a little scary as mentioned in the previous post. In the final phase of the selection process, which seemed to take a long time, the RHOA girl fight aired.  I heard nothing from the HR department and I thought perhaps the conversation I had with my daughter and family friend might be accurate in why my offer seemed to be held up. Anytime you’re waiting on anything important, your mind can often wonder through the most accusatory places.

The conversation went something like this.    

 

 

Daughter:  I have gone on over 30  interviews and some I was even called back several times, but in   the end I didn’t get the job.  Even when my qualifications were a perfect match.

Friend: Yeah, same here.  I have even interviewed with people who were less qualified than I and went several rounds and didn’t get the final call back.  Even with a degree.

Me:  Well, what do you attribute this to?  Do you think it’s just super competitive right now in the job market?

Daughter:  I would think that until I was asked in one interview whether I was a party girl or not?  And also if I liked to go clubbing out late, because I would have to work early on most days?

Friend:  For me it’s even worse, I’ve had to dummy down my qualifications and long term job experience on my resumes and applications because I’ve been questioned about really doing the things I say I’ve done. Like they need photographic proof or something.

Friend:  Once I was told in the interview that they didn’t want any drama in their offices.  And questioned whether I liked to fight or not.

Me:  Wow really.  Where is this coming from?

Friend:  I think it’s the images that are constantly being pushed about black people.  Popping bottles, throwing drinks, making it rain and fighting like crazy.

Me:  Do you think these images are created purposefully by media?  Sort of a propaganda push.

Daughter:  Yes, the images of great African American women in particular like Michelle Obama are just not strong enough to combat what is constantly out there seen as the screaming, yelling, angry black women.  I think it’s really strange that in today’s time I can go into all types of businesses here where we live and not see one person of color working there.  Not Asian, Hispanic, Black, East Indian, nothing.

Friend’s Mother:  Seems to me it’s an attempt to ‘whiteout’ employment for fear of the images are true.

Hence my fright when I didn’t hear back from the HR department in what I considered a timely manner.  I questioned whether the images out in media land were negatively affecting my chances at a higher position.  I was unsure.  I have been on my soap box concerning these images for some time now {remember Girl Fight Club} but it definitely is necessary to continue the discussion if any real change is to come.

How does this relate back to books and race?  Books can project images of all kinds.  Christopher Myers wrote, “…from the understanding that your life and lives of people like you are worthy of being told, thought about, discussed, and even celebrated.  Academics and educators talk about self-esteem and self-worth when they think of books in this way, as mirrors that affirm readers’ own identities.” Walter Dean Myers eloquently wrote, “Books transmit values.  They explore our common humanity.  What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color?  Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color?  Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?”

Hopefully not from the media. And definitely not from RHOA.

When I taught those fifth graders that read over 1500 books, there was a moment when I had to convince them that college was for all of them.  They didn’t believe it.  There weren’t any academic role models before them to show them the way.  I wrote my first children’s book trying to convince them that college was for them and named it College Bound.  I used the young man who won the challenge as the model for the main character.  I really never did anything with the book until recently when I decided to revise it and begin sending queries on it.  I have several children’s book in a completed phase sitting on a shelf. The realities presented within the articles are forcing me to send them out with a hope of being one in the number of those books of color that get published.

As for the book, College Bound, I dedicated it to the young man who won the challenge, and  read it first, and now sits in a jail cell awaiting a possible 20 year sentence.  Maybe more books representing all cultures throughout his life could have changed this.

~Many Blessings,

Robin

3 thoughts on “PART II: RACE and Books

  1. When I ead this, I shed a tear for the truth is stated so eloquently. Stay true to yourself and your cause my dear Robin.

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