Suppose they held a conference and nobody came? Cancellation due to whiteness.
The Loft Literary Center https://www.loft.org/ in Minneapolis cancelled its upcoming conference on writing for children and young adults due to whiteout conditions. Complaints from the public and shrinking attendance levels prompted the cancellation, with only one person of color scheduled to speak. According to the Loft Literary Center, more than 10 POC were invited to speak, but none were able to attend or interested in attending. The part that strikes me is the fact that such a small pool of brown presenters was invited. More than 10? Out of the entire children's literature industry that's how many people they could find to approach about presenting?
According to the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, out of 3,200 children's books published in 2016:
Responses to the cancellation shocked me. People seemed to think acknowledging authors of color is an attempt to be politically correct and is reverse racism. Is this really how people in the Midwest feel about POC in the children's literature community? The comments felt Trumpish and hateful. They exemplified feelings of white fragility and the strong dislike that Caucasians have of being labeled "white." The commenters clearly felt that their white race is the default and to be labeled as white was an affront. They see themselves as raceless, just "people," no need for any labeling.
"Political correctness gone amuck. This kind of stuff makes me crazy and a bit angry." says lynneploetz in the comments for the article announcing the cancellation.
"Just the difference in men vs women's writing is a huge diversity! I did read a book recently written by a man, from a woman's perspective too, that I found very interesting and thought he did very well in getting the woman's point of view down." Marathon2004 thinks diversity means having a man write from a woman's point of view. No need to involve POC or even women to get diversity, apparently.
"Imagine if the same diversity nonsense was applied to the NBA." says DeeJayMN.
Another commenter proudly points out that the Loft Literary Center's mission statement mentions nothing about diversity.
"Diversity itself has become an exclusionary concept that "whites" aren't allowed to belong to. "The problem is crucial because of the whiteness of children’s literature in general," said Shannon Gibney, who apparently doesn't realize how racist this statement is. Too bad the Star Tribune believes this kind of discourse is acceptable. If someone were to complain about the "blackness" of something, they would rightly be deemed a racist. Why is it OK when leveled against white people? What exactly is "whiteness" and why is it taken as axiomatic that it's bad?" Carciofi is furious that white people are excluded from diversity and furious that whiteness is even a term used to describe white people. 271 comments, white people praising each other for speaking out against diversity. One commenter argues that diversity is more than race, that we are all different from each other in "so many ways." Needing diversity to include people who aren't white "really seems so stupid to me." he says.
Reading these comments is making me wince, I'm trying to comfort myself by thinking that this is just a small pocket of people in the Midwest that have nothing to do with my world, but in light of last weekend's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and the political climate of our nation, I have to acknowledge that this is real and this is how white people feel. The dismissive tone and the repetitive use of words like "silly" and the victimized tones that the comments carry leave me feeling absolutely drained and exhausted. We are drowning in a sea of hate.
For next month's post and moving forward, please send me questions and topics that you would like to discuss that involve libraries, books, diversity, and the children's literature community. firstname.lastname@example.org
Fifi Abu spends her days surrounded by books that have already been created and the rest of her time writing and illustrating books yet to be born. She looks forward to a day when all children can see themselves reflected in the books they read. Ms. Abu holds a master's degree in children's literature and a master's degree in library science, is an active member of SCBWI, a Children's Book Academy graduate, and is represented by Linda Epstein at the Emerald City Literary Agency. She is pleased to announce that she has been elected to the 2019 Caldecott Committee.
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