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READ TO ME: Antiracist Baby is a best-seller

by Celia Storey | June 15, 2020 at 1:51 a.m.
(Kokila Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers)

TITLE: Antiracist Baby

BY: Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky (Kokila Books, Tuesday), board book for ages 0-3, $8.99.

STORY: Board books are extra sturdy so they might bear up to pawing and gnawing by little kids. But the contents here include advice that's age-appropriate for adults. In fact, the book is marketed as being right for adults "who may feel hesitant or unprepared to have conversations about race and racism," as a news release explains.

The baby in the title is not merely one little cutie, but several babies of varied colors and ethnicities. This baby isn't born an antiracist, the book says. Instead, an antiracist baby must be bred — taught — to be antiracist. The book says antiracist babies can cause society to transform so there can be equity for everyone.

Ibram X. Kendi is a history professor, so his choice of the word equity is not casual. Equality is about treating everyone the same. Equity is about fairness, ensuring that all people have what they need to succeed. In Ashley Lukashevsky's illustrations, the Antiracist Baby looks through binoculars and sees two tiny people climbing a ladder. A white person climbs to the top of the ladder and has a trophy, but the ladder is broken for the black person. At the end of the book, the white person helps the black person fix that broken ladder.

There are nine steps Antiracist Baby would take to "make equity a reality":

◼️ "Open your eyes to all skin colors." Being antiracist doesn't mean Baby can't see that people come in different colors or have different cultures. It means Baby doesn't think those differences determine ability or merit.

◼️ "Use your words to talk about race."

◼️ "Point at policies as the problem, not people."

◼️ "Shout, 'There's nothing wrong with the people!'" The Antiracist Baby knows that "we are all human."

◼️ "Celebrate all our differences."

◼️ "Knock down the stack of cultural blocks."

◼️ "Confess when being racist." This step matters because "nothing disrupts racism more than when we confess the racist ideas that we sometimes express."

◼️ "Grow to be an antiracist." The Antiracist Baby never stops learning.

◼️ "Believe we shall overcome racism."

The book says the Antiracist Baby should be taught to use words to talk about race because "if we don't name racism, it won't stop being so violent." The book doesn't depict any examples of violence. There was a time when parents could imagine their 3-year-olds lived in a happy little fuzzy world utterly unaware violence. That time is gone.

Although Ashley Lukashevsky's illustrations convey humor and a joyful spirit, this is a serious little book, and it will interest serious big people.

Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.


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