I have been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be an ally to people of color or other marginalized groups. I’ve been seeking out commentary about what someone like me can do to make the world a better place for everyone. I don’t have all the answers, but I would like to amplify the words of children’s author/poet Nikki Grimes. She writes:
“Instead of looking the other way while hatred takes root in young hearts and minds, why not try this: Plant the seeds of empathy. Teach the young to feel the heartbeats of races and cultures other than their own. Replace any possible fear of the unknown, with knowledge of the knowable. Teach them the ways in which we humans are more alike than we are different. Teach them that the most important common denominator is the human heart. Start with a book.
Give young readers books by and about peoples labeled ‘other.’ I’m not talking about one or two books, here and there. I’m talking about spreading diverse books throughout the curriculum, beginning in elementary grades, and continuing through to high school. Why? Because racism is systemic and teaching empathy, teaching diversity, needs to be systemic, too.”
I agree wholeheartedly. Perhaps one of these books will be a good place for you to start:
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, One Family by George Shannon, and I am the World by Charles R. Smith.
But don’t stop there. Keep reading diverse stories and talking about them with kids. We will change the world one story at a time.
- About my love for Last Stop on Market Street
- About the danger of the single story
- About the diversity conversations at the AWP conference earlier this year