I very distinctly remember a vivid experience in middle school, where the teacher had planned a one-class unit on “Indian Culture.” (One 40 minute class as if that was all there was to say about it.) Being the type of kid who spent most of her childhood trying to blend into the background for various reasons, I remember being a little bit apprehensive anyway. Unsurprisingly, growing up in a primarily white suburban town in the 90s, I was the only Indian American, and often the only POC, in my class. That day, the teacher chose to focus his tirade (there was yelling) on how in Indian culture it’s perfectly acceptable to beat one’s wife, and that hygiene was an issue in the culture. There were also comments about cows and how they hold up traffic but nobody does anything about it, and maybe the strangeness of the food. The take-home message for my peers was that as a people we were weird, repulsive, and backwards---and that's all there was to know. There were intermittent snickers and gasps and "ewww"s around me in that linoleum classroom, each one making me feel a little more hollow. Whatever was said there by that teacher would have likely been my classmates’ first impression ever of my culture, and maybe even what they used to define it for years afterwards.
I went home that day feeling alienated and demoralized.
After that day, in my grade school education, I don't remember reading textbooks that told a fair story about POC, and I don't remember having access to books that told multidimensional stories about POC.
This initiative my family is starting (link below) hopes to bring children's books to local homes that opt in to do so on a monthly basis, starting this summer. We are focusing on books geared towards ages 0-8. We hope to work with local bookstores, including those owned and run by POCs, and we hope we can be a vocal member of the community about racial injustices in our education system. The embarrassment of that day was a lonely feeling, and yet I know any young POC will find it a familiar one. We can and must do better.
Although in the long term we are focused on POC diversity in a wider sense, I know it's important right now for us to recognize that we need to stand with and support the Black community.
The books and initiatives in the immediate future will reflect that support.
Thank you to all of you who have generously donated and shared and gotten in touch so far to discuss. It has been eye opening to me. We are looking to bolster the voices of all those working in this space. More to come.
Books are meant to open up windows to what is possible. They allow us to see ourselves in other worlds and step into somebody else's shoes. Our mission at the Loving Little Minds Home Library Project is to make sure those worlds and vantage points are accessible to all.
We believe in the transformative power of books. Let's start from the ground up, where our littlest feet stand.
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