Friday, October 31, 2014

On Mouse Cookies and Racism

There's a series of children's books called "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,"; "If You Give a Pig a Pancake,"; "If You Give a Moose a Muffin," etc. The books start out with a boy or a girl giving one of these animals a treat, and then a cascading series of ridiculous events occurs that ultimately circles back to the treat.

Reading these books (and others) forced me to confront the difficult, sad, and vaguely comical issue of racist anachronisms in classic children's literature and how to deal with them. As a white person, I recognize I enjoy an ethnic privilege. (At least until someone rattles off a bunch of anti-Semitic stereotypes in front of me not realizing I'm Jewish, which happens with surprising frequency). And at a certain point, my kids will come to understand white privilege as well.

All of this made me want to write a version of the "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" series of books, exploring the phenomenon of suddenly trying to explain the vile horrors of humanity to your innocent children as you put them to bed at night.

The text would probably look something like this, although someone else would need to do the illustrations, since I suck at drawing:

If you read your daughter "Little House on the Prairie," you're going to get to the part where ma is a racist asshole and hates on "Indians."

When you get to the part where ma is a racist asshole, you'll need to explain America's history of racial and cultural genocide.

As you explain America's history of racial and cultural genocide, you'll watch your child's innocence disappear before your very eyes.

Once her innocence disappears, you'll have no way of getting it back other than to put down "Little House" and grab "If I Ran the Zoo" by Dr. Seuss instead.

If you grab "If I Ran the Zoo," you'll inevitably get to the part where a little Chinese man from "Zomba-ma-Tant" is wearing a pointy hat and "his eyes at a slant."

Once you get to the "eyes at a slant" line, you'll need to decide whether to skip over that page or explain racist stereotypes once again and why they are bad and why your daughter should never say or think these things.

If you explain racist stereotypes and why they are bad, you'll watch your daughter become increasingly confused about the world, and you will just close the book, give up on reading altogether, and turn on the TV instead.

If you turn on the TV instead, all you'll find is "Dumbo" because of Disney's greedy licensing racket that doesn't let you access any Disney movies made before 1990.

If all you find is "Dumbo," you'll get to the part with the racist crows. If you get to the part with the racist crows, you'll be so disgusted you'll turn off the TV and ask your daughter to go pick out a book.

And if you ask her to go pick out a book, she's going to hand you "Little House on the Prairie."

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