I read the articles “Here I Am” by Brian Pinkney and “Representing the Muslim American Experience” by Laila Alawa. I agree with both of the authors that there is a lack of literature in schools representing the Muslim and African American child’s perspective and/or experience. I think mainstream education overlooks and undervalues the idea that it is important for children to explore and develop their identity through stories and picture books that match their values and culture.
I think it is safe to say that most young boys like adventure and exploring new things. Pinkney describes the frustration he had as a boy in the 1960s finding picture books that depicted black children having adventures. As he states in his article, “…I began to feel like a nonentity — like the hole in the doughnut. I constantly asked, “Where am I?”
The first time I realized my own racial stereotype was in Phoenix, AZ at Mountain View Elementary School’s Christmas party for students and parents. (Keep in mind that Mountain View Elementary School is predominantly Hispanic with about 8% Caucasian.) They had a free photo booth where children could get their picture taken with Santa Clause.
It was the first Mexican Santa I had ever seen. I was shocked at myself for reacting like that and assuming that Santa had to be white. That is when I realized that every literary depiction of Christmas I had every seen featured Caucasians.
I feel that there is much to be gained from exposure to perspectives and viewpoints other than that of our own. Escaping from the norm will allow us to see beyond stereotypes. Knowledge is power. I am looking forward to expanding my perception of Muslim culture through some of the books Alawa recommended in her article:
- Ask Me No Questions by Marina Tamar Budhos
- Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
- My Name Is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin M.D. and Barbara Kiwak
If the hero always wears a white hat and the villain always wears a black hat, we know who the hero is without even reading the story. But it is the story that is important, not who wears the white hat. We need to do more to change typical racial stereotypes in this country. Spreading awareness of the issue is a good place to start.