"The Evolution of Black/African American Representation in Children’s Books" literature review. Literature reviews use secondary sources (the assigned articles), and do not report new or original experimental work. Meaning you are to use the research (the assigned articles) to make an argument, rather than stating your own opinion. You may “analyze” research (the assigned articles) to support or refute your arguments/commentary.
· Refer to at least four assigned readings. A total of 5 scholarly sources are required which means you can use one outside academic source or other articles.
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Urban Education 1 –25
© The Author(s) 2020 Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions DOI: 10.1177/0042085920963713
Theorizing a Critical Race Content Analysis for Children’s Literature about People of Color
Lindsay Pérez Huber1, Lorena Camargo Gonzalez2, and Daniel G. Solórzano2
Abstract Concerns from scholars about the exclusion of People of Color in children’s literature began in the early 20th century and continues today. The lack of children’s literature about People of Color is even more alarming in the contemporary moment, when Children of Color comprise a significant proportion of urban schools throughout the U.S. Only since the 1990’s have scholars begun to critically examine the portrayals of People of Color in children’s books. More recent research offers frameworks and methodologies for critical analyses of children’s books, namely a Critical Content Analysis that offers strategies for the examination of discursive power in literature for youth. This conceptual article theorizes how Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Education can be utilized with a Critical Content Analysis to provide a new framework for the examination of race, class, gender, (and other intersectionalities) in children’s books about People of Color—A Critical Race Content Analysis. We provide guiding principles of a Critical Race Content Analysis and analytical questions as tools for researchers and educators interested in conducting their own critical analyses of books about People of Color. Finally, we illustrate how this analysis is conducted
1California State University, Long Beach, CA, USA 2University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Corresponding Author: Lindsay Pérez Huber, College of Education, EED-1 California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90840-2201, USA. Email: [email protected]
963713 UEXXXX10.1177/0042085920963713Urban EducationPérez Huber et al. research-article2020
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with an example of a children’s book about immigration. This article makes important contributions to the literature on urban education that call for providing educators with tools to develop “racial literacies”.
Keywords racism, social, literacy, urban education, culturally relevant pedagogy, subjects
The education of the Negro child has been too much in terms of white people. All through school his textbooks contain. . .little or nothing about his own race. All the pictures he sees are of white people. Most of the books he reads are by white authors, and his heroes and heroines are white. The result is that all the Negro child idealism, his sense of the good, the great and the beautiful is associated almost entirely with white people. The effect can readily be imagined. He unconsciously gets the impression that the Negro has little chance to be good, great, heroic or beautiful.
—W.E.B. DuBois (1921)
In 1921, W.E.B. DuBois expressed his concern regarding the ways racism was imbedded in the “education of the Negro child”—an education that cen- tered the histories, stories, and images of white people to complete exclusion of Black communities, and to the detriment of Black children (DuBois, 1921). Over four decades later in 1965, educator Nancy Larrick confirmed that there was “almost a complete omission” of African Americans from children’s books published in the U.S. in her article, “The All White World of Children’s Books.” (Larrick, 1965). She stated, “Nonwhite children are learning to read and to understand. . . life in books which either omit them entirely or scarcely mention them. There is no need to elaborate on the dam- age—much of it irreparable.” Larrick explained that when Black characters were included in children’s book stories, they often were portrayed by racist stereotypes. Moreover, many publishing houses were unwilling to release books with Black characters (Larrick, 1965). Over five decades after Larrick, children’s book author and illustrator Christopher Myers (2014) wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times titled, “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature” that reported little had changed today regarding representations of People of Color in children’s books. Indeed, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) confirms these arguments. The CCBC (2019) reports the number of books about People of Color published each year, and shows that on average, only 29% of books have been published over the past decade about African Americans, Latinx,1 Asian Americans and Native Americans
Pérez Huber et al. 3
combined. We would argue that these numbers are even more alarming today, as these racial groups have become a significant portion of the U.S. population.2
Botelho and Rudman (2009) suggest, “children’s books offer a window into society” and are encoded with racialized, gendered, and classed mean- ings, shaped by larger sociopolitical structures that exist within our world. Without these “windows,” children’s perspectives into the realities of others are limited. Further, researchers argue that children’s literature can discur- sively reveal “systems of meaning that perpetuate social inequities” within society (Botelho & Rudman, 2009, p. xv). Eagleton (1996) explains literature as a social construct that reflects historical, political, and ideological contexts that maintain inequitable power relations. In turn, young readers engage in the consumption and interpretation of this literature where they begin learn- ing, “issues of power and representation of people of various cultural back- grounds” (Martínez-Roldan, 2013, p. 6). Thus, children’s literature plays a critical role in shaping youth’s earliest perceptions and understanding about race, culture, gender, class, and other social locations.
This decades-long debate has serious implications for Students of Color in urban education settings. To be clear, we understand the “urban” in urban education to be both a real and imagined space imbued with socially con- structed meanings that, when applied to educational contexts, leads to deficit and racist perceptions of Students of Color who occupy urban space (i.e., the “ghetto”) (Leonardo & Hunter, 2007). However, Milner (2012) complicates the construct of urban education beyond the spatial, reminding us that regardless of geographic location, urban schools and students are typically associated with “urban characteristics” signaled by racial and linguistic demographics. Warren and Chambers (2020) state, “where a school is physi- cally located matters as much to schooling outcomes as does how the phy- sical location is engineered” (p. 370). Often, urban public schools serve predominately Black and Latinx students that are indeed, designed to (re) produce socio-racial inequities through inadequate teaching practices, poor funding and administrative decisions and curriculum that is culturally dis- connected (Milner & Lomotey, 2014). Scholars have called on the need to acknowledge race, gender, and other social locations, such as immigration status that we discuss in this article, in cultivating urban literacy practices (Kirkland, 2013) and provide teachers with the tools to cultivate “racial lit- eracies” (Sealey-Ruiz & Greene, 2015). Indeed, developing racial literacies requires skills and practices that enable teachers and students to engage questions of race and representation (Sealey-Ruiz & Greene, 2015)—exactly the tools we seek to develop for children’s literature in this article.
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Studies have shown there are significant academic consequences for Children of Color in urban schools who do not see their experiences, back- grounds, and cultures represented in the books they read. Hughes-Hassell et al. (2009) explain that the lack of culturally relevant reading material for Children of Color can negatively impact reading achievement and motiva- tion. Further, Gangi (2008) found that an “unbearable whiteness” in literacy instruction in U.S. K-12 schools that advantage white students and disadvan- tage Students of Color. This only adds to the challenges Students of Color encounter in urban schooling environments, where they already encounter inequitable conditions (Milner & Lomotey, 2014). On the contrary, numerous studies have found academic outcomes for Children of Color are positively impacted by the availability of reading material that includes characters and content that represent their own cultural knowledge and backgrounds (DeLeón, 2002; McCollin & O’Shea, 2005; McCullough, 2008). Further, scholars argue that white students who only see their own perspectives repre- sented in literature can establish cultural normativity (Sims Bishop, 1997) and beliefs of group superiority (Braden & Rodriguez, 2016). Thus, the scar- city of literature in schools that represent People of Color is problematic for all students.
A critical examination of the ways historically marginalized groups are portrayed within this literature is necessary to allow teachers, educators, fami- lies, and children the possibility to understand the discursive storylines being reproduced in the books they use in their classrooms and homes. The objective of this article is to offer a strategy to engage such efforts. In this article, we utilize Critical Race Theory (CRT) to create an analytical strategy for criti- cally examining how race, class, gender, and other intersectionalities emerge in children’s books about People of Color. As Critical Race Theorists in Education, we begin with an explanation of our theoretical framework. Next, we describe the critical perspectives other scholars have taken in similar investigations of children’s literature. We then explain our theorizing in bridg- ing these critical perspectives with a CRT framework to develop what we call a Critical Race Content Analysis. In addition to theorizing this analytical approach, we also provide analytical questions as prompts (see Table 1) that can be used to guide the process for exploring representations of People of Color in children’s books. We conclude with a discussion about the ways we see these tools useful for future research.
Critical Race Theory
Critical Race Theory (CRT) originated in the 1980’s from the work of lawyers, activists, and legal scholars as a new strategy for dealing with the
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emergence of a post-Civil Rights racial structure in the United States. In the early 1990s, Mari Matsuda (1991) defined Critical Race Theory as:
. . .the work of progressive legal scholars of color who are attempting to develop a jurisprudence that accounts for the role of racism in American law and that work toward the elimination of racism as part of a larger goal of eliminating all forms of subordination (p. 1331).
Specifically, Critical Race Theory in the Law challenged the dominant discourse on race and racism by examining how legal doctrine is used to subordinate and marginalize certain racial and ethnic groups. In the mid- 1990s CRT moved to the field of Education with the work of Gloria Ladson- Billings and William Tate (1995) and Daniel Solorzano (1997). In adapting Matsuda (1991), Solorzano (1997) defined CRT in Education as the work of scholars and practitioners who are attempting to develop an explanatory framework that accounts for the role of race and racism in Education, and that works toward identifying and challenging racism as part of a larger goal of identifying and challenging all forms of subordination. He also posited five tenets that form the basic perspectives, research methods, and pedagogy of a Critical Race Theory in Education (Solorzano, 1997). Those tenets are: (1) The centrality of race and racism and their intersectionality with other forms of subordination. CRT begins from the premise that race and racism are endemic, and permanent in US society (Bell, 1992), and that racism often intersects with other forms of oppression such as classism, sexism, nativism, heterosexism, etc. (2) The challenge to dominant ideology. CRT challenges the normative ideologies of objectivity, meritocracy, color-blindness, race neutrality, and equal opportunity that surround educational discourse. (3) The centrality of experiential knowledge. CRT recognizes the experiential knowl- edge of People of Color as legitimate, appropriate, and critical to understand- ing, analyzing, and teaching about racial subordination in the field of education, (4) The interdisciplinary perspective. CRT in education utilizes the transdisciplinary knowledge base of ethnic studies, women’s studies, sociology, history, law, and other fields to better understand racism, sexism, and classism in education and, (5) The commitment to social justice. CRT strives for social justice for Communities of Color as analytical, curricular, and pedagogical work that leads toward the elimination of oppression, and the empowerment of People of Color.
Indeed, Critical Race Theory in Education is different from other frame- works because it challenges the traditional paradigms, texts, and separate dis- courses on race, gender, and class (and other subordinated social locations) by showing how they intersect to impact the everyday lives of Communities
Pérez Huber et al. 7
of Color. CRT helps focus on the racialized, gendered, and classed experi- ences of Communities of Color while offering a liberatory or transformative framework to combat racial, gender, and class oppression (and other forms of oppression). It utilizes the interdisciplinary knowledge base of Education, Law, Ethnic Studies, Woman’s Studies, History, Social Work, Psychology, and Sociology to better understand how subordinating ideologies and struc- tural oppression mediate lived experiences of Communities of Color, and how these communities respond and resist. It should be noted that Critical Race Theory in Education is not static, and
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