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  • Writer's pictureErika Nichols-Frazer

Calling Out Other White People

I manage social media for the Children's Literacy Foundation. Mostly cute pics of kids with books, recommendations of books, articles about books, resources for parents, educators, and librarians, etc. We don't get a lot of hate. It's kind of hard to hate a small Vermont nonprofit run out of its director's house, powered by solar power, who supports VT and NH authors, engages kids around reading and writing, and gives away $800,000 in new books to low-income kiddos each year. Most people are pro-children's literacy.

Cut to today, when a LitHub article I'd posted a few weeks ago caught someone's attention. I'd never heard of this person or seen her on our page, but there she was, crying about the article calling white people racists and advocating teaching kids about white supremacy. She asked how we can claim to be inclusive when we're "excluding" white kids (Um. No. We operate in Vermont and New Hampshire. We serve a whole lot of white kids. But a whole lot of non-white kids, too.).

I won't bore you with all of this woman's LONG comments, but the gist of it was how dare you teach kids that white people are racist, you're racist! (Nice gaslighting. I see what you did there.) She even went so far as to claim that white children would die by suicide if they were taught about white supremacy. Oh yeah, and we're going to be getting "A LOT" of law suits.

"You are calling White people the racists," she wrote. Um. Right. Good analytical skills.

It's hard (for me) to know how to handle these situations. Do you engage and argue? Ignore it? Delete it? I've gotten into some nasty social media debates with Trump supporters, in which I tried to be reasonable and even-handed, but ultimately came to the conclusion that I was changing no one's mind and only causing myself emotional duress. Now, I just ignore it. But this is my job. Am I supposed to be professional to this racist whacko who refuses to examine her own biases and racist conclusions? The argument that talking about racism is racist seems like a weak one to me.

It's our ethos at the Children's Literacy Foundation to be inclusive and representative of all the kids we serve, who come from all kinds of backgrounds, with different challenges. Our missions is serving low-income, at-risk, and rural kids. We actively work to be antiracist, educate ourselves (probably not surprisingly, we read a lot), and offer resources for the families and educators/folks who work with youth with whom we partner. We take workshops on equity, listen to feedback from the communities we serve, strive to offer diverse and multi-cultural books. We went through a recent diversity audit of our booklist. We had a group of library science grad students write a proposal for us to increase the number of LGBTQ+ books we offer. Our advisors post resources like this, recommending diverse books. Could we do more? Definitely. And we're working on it. But the point is, we're working, and believe others should be, too.

In my opinion, teaching kids (and providing resources to those who teach/work with kids) to be antiracist is crucial. But you probably don't want to hear another white woman's opinion on how to be antiracist. Here's somewhere to start. Here's an article. Here's another. I hope that woman digs up some resources, though I fear they'll support her beliefs that white people are somehow the victims here. The reality is, before this country can heal from still-rampant racism, before Black lives really do matter to people in this country, we need white people to recognize this systemic problem and do something about it. The work of dismantling racism can't be on BIPOC folks alone. We all need to get more comfortable talking about uncomfortable things.

I thanked that woman for sharing her opinion and welcomed a private conversation. She posted a few more angry comments then seemed to fade back into the dark corners of the internet, presumably to go sue us.

Oh, yeah - want to give the Children's Literacy Foundation a little love? Follow us on the social medias! @cliforg (FB/Twitter)/@clifonline (Insta)

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