I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. Since September, when I went to buy a birthday card and present for my step-grand daughter. Given the events of the US election, and the aftermath of the EU referendum it seems even more important to get my thoughts down. I don’t feel comfortable naming her on here, so will refer to her as SGD to keep her anonymous.
Presents are easy, cards not so much
Lewis’ grand daughter is mixed race. It’s not a problem for us, or anyone else in the family as far as I know. And why should it be? Haven’t we moved on from all that these days? Largely I would say, yes we have. But there are always hold-outs.
As it was SGD’s 2nd birthday, it wasn’t too hard to get her a fun and educational toy without having to worry about it having to be ‘relatable’. It seems with early age toys that they don’t have box art that features images of children. I haven’t delved too far into it, as I never had children of my own. But I suspect that toy companies try to be as inclusive as possible. Or am I being naive? It could be that there is just very little packaging featuring children. Being childless does put me on the back foot a bit with regards to trends. ANYWAY… I found a nice wooden ‘matching pairs’ game that looked suitable for her age-range.
Next challenge was the card. And, wow… I hadn’t expected to find this to be so difficult. Everywhere I looked there were illustrated cards – big ones, small ones, elaborate ones and simple ones. They all had one thing in common… a complete and total lack of diversity. Any card that featured a child, the child was white. There was a big Disney Princesses stand, and you might think that given some of Disney’s female protagonists have been ‘people of colour’ that there might have been some diversity. Nope. No Princess Tiana, no Lilo, no Mulan, no Esmerelda, no Pocahontos, no Jasmine.
The defense here could be.. “Oh not all those are Princesses”, and I guess that’s fairly accurate, Lilo, Mulan, Pocohontas and Esmerelda don’t qualify as Princesses. But Tiana and Jasmine surely do? For the record, I am not accusing Disney of whitewashing here, just a lack of diversity in their merchandise. Whitewashing would be if a character who should be a PoC (such as Jasmine) is portrayed by a white character. I guess it could be that the stand didn’t have all of the cards in. However that doesn’t follow because all the princesses feature in a gaggle on the stand graphics and none of those mentioned above feature.
It’s disappointing, and I have to say I found it took me a lot longer to find something for SGD than it should do. In the end I opted for a really cute animal card. Bit hard to go wrong with that hopefully.
One last point on that. I’m not a big fan of the term “Person of Colour”. It works as a catch-all term I suppose, when lumping all non-whites into a single definition, but it doesn’t work for me as a descriptive for an individual. It feels a bit patronising. But I don’t get to decide I suppose. All I can say is I’ve never known anyone who is black to have a problem with the word black.
When I was working with Tim Dunnigan on I’m a Hero Too we worked hard to make it as inclusive as possible. Ultimately I found it more than a little depressing that there was such a lack of diversity in the cards that I looked at that day.
Post EU referendum and US Presidential election
I worry for the future that SGD is going to grow up in. It doesn’t take a genius to see that race-hate has been on the increase since the EU referendum. Trump has fanned the same flames, with his prejudice-addled rhetoric about muslims and mexicans. The Ku Klux Klan are openly celebrating his win and planning a march in his honour. It’s too simplistic and most likely untrue to say that all those who voted for Trump are racists and bigots, but it’s not much of a stretch to say that racists and bigots will have voted for Trump. The alt-right are feeling really confident now. Some UK stats that don’t make for pleasant reading:
Monitoring presented at the hearing by the London mayor’s evidence and insight team showed a 16% increase in hate crime in the 12 months to August. It also showed that in the 38 days after the referendum there were more than 2,300 recorded race-hate offences in London, compared with 1,400 in the 38 days before the vote. The Guardian 28th September, 2016.
2,300 is an horrendous figure. The previous 38 days probably contains some ‘brexit’ related hate as well, no doubt a lot of it directed towards eastern europeans. I really do not ‘get’ racism / xenophobia at all. It makes no sense to me to hate anyone based on the colour of their skin or the country they originated from. While I’m typing this The Agenda is on. Dr David Starkey seems to be incredulous at the suggestion that someone connected to Trump could possibly be anti-Semitic because Trumps son-in-law is Jewish. … erm.
I’m not going to go into any more depth than that as there is a crap tonne of stuff out there on the net that is better written and more informative than anything I can come up with. I do worry about the future, and hope that SGD can navigate it without fear of prejudice. Right now, nothing I see makes me terribly hopeful that will happen.