Discussion// Racism And Cultural Appropriation In Children’s Books And Classics

Why hello there! Y’all this is my first time writing a proper discussion post so please excuse me if this post seems all over the place.

So, the other day, I was going through my picture books and classics and noticed a lot of stuff which was kind of concerning.

As children, most if not all of us, read a story or two before bedtime. As children, we failed to notice how bad and misleading some of these stories are.

Take Snow White for example. The name itself has problems. Snow white was portrayed as a princess whose complexion resembled snow. A famous line from the tale, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, whose the fairest of them all” is also very misleading, as children might think that one has to be fair to be pretty, one must be fair, which is completely false.

If we take a look at most children’s books and classics, they are written by white authors and have white protagonists. Everything is viewed from an individualistic point of view and there is basically no diversity. Even if there is incorporation of POC, they aren’t portrayed very well.

Most of the black people who are a part of classics and children’s books are usually associated with animal and instinct behavior, which is honestly very disgusting. Asians, on the other hand are usually people who have small eyes and small voices in these books, which is not true. Not all Asians have small almond eyes and not all of them are shy.

Apart from being racist, most of these books were also sexist. Just take any popular fairy tale as an example. Most female protagonists did something stupid and were rescued by a prince in the end. That just demeans women in general, making it look like they cannot do anything without a man’s help.

In conclusion, everyone who wasn’t a white man was treated like mere objects in these stories.

Some might debate that this all was normal back when these stories were written and nothing can be done.

But children still do read them. Reading such stories might lead the children into believing in White Supremacy, and that men are better than women.

So what can we do? Just brush it off as old beliefs? Nope. That is not enough.

Instead of reading the same old classics, I think that we should move on to books written by POC and women. Not only will that help the youth appreciate diversity but also make sure that they do not elect the wrong person.


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Till Next Time, Stay Safe

Signing Off,

21 thoughts on “Discussion// Racism And Cultural Appropriation In Children’s Books And Classics

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  2. I couldn’t agree more! These classics were fun in their time but there are many amazing modern children’s books which are diverse and inclusive and which don’t stereotype characters who aren’t cis-white males and it’s important to read those books to children

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The perpetuation of cultural appropriation and racism in books — and in general social terms — is truly awful. So much comes through a White lens (I touch on this in a post I did about unlearning as a part of anti-racism work) that it distorts everything. It’s time for a big change, and starting with children’s books is a great idea!

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  4. It’s true that some of the old fairy tales or classic kids stories would be considered problematic today, I don’t think we should fault them for that, given the historical context of when they were written, mostly hundreds of years ago in Europe. Personally I’ve always loved the whimsy of fairy tales, with magic objects, beautiful ball gowns, curses and witches, etc. I think it’s better to try to retell these stories in ways that are more empowering and inclusive than to just say that they’re all bad and we shouldn’t read them. I feel like when I was really young I was first exposed to the classic fairy tales through retellings, especially with Disney movies and also some retellings in picture books, and like now I feel like Disney is doing better, with new princesses like Moana and the upcoming live action Little Mermaid, where Ariel is being played by a Black actress.

    This applies in retelling books too; like you said, it’s not good that Snow White is regarded as being “fairest,” but, for example, in Winter by Marissa Meyer, the “Snow White” character is known to be the most beautiful person around, and she’s Black. There’s definitely a disparity in publishing where year after year the stats come out saying that white characters are the most prevalent in picture books (and all books really), with even animals getting more rep than POC, but I have also seen some recent picture books that tell fairy tales with POC, or strong empowered girls, and I think we definitely should be reading and publishing more of these.

    So personally I don’t think it’s inherently bad to tell kids these classic stories, such as like you said Snow White, but we can tell them in more progressive ways with retellings (I mean, no little kids were reading the original stories where Snow White’s stepmother dances to death on hot coals or Cinderella’s stepsisters chop off their feet or Ariel cuts out her tongue and dies right…). And of course I absolutely agree with what you said at the end that we should be reading kids more progressive diverse stories as well, including those written by POC and women <3 I just think we can do both <3

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes yes yes!! This is a fantastic post! It’s insane how so many classics/picture books are full of racist and sexist ideologies, and then people wonder where those ideas came from. We definitely need a do-over, so the next generation doesn’t need to go through this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Do you have any books that you would recommend, especially with POC? I’ve got a 9 year old daughter and I think I’ve done OK-ish over the past few years at finding her books with positive female role models in, but it is really had to find many with POC characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You are absolutely right! We can’t change past but future is in your hands and others who think likewise. Write stories and books that are unbiased so that next generation doesn’t face this problem

    Liked by 1 person

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