Tuesday, January 28, 2014
To the editor:
I support the many who have written opposing Amherst library’s decision to place the “Tintin” comics in the young children’s section. I agree that children’s reading material always undergoes (as it should) some scrutiny before it is made available, that many materials deemed unsuitable are located elsewhere, and that therefore a library’s decision to place something in open reach of young children conveys its implicit sanction and values.
However, the racist images in “Tintin” are not harmful or hurtful only to the “victims” or nonwhite children to whom such prejudice or stereotypes may be applied. I would frame my opposition to the Amherst library’s decision differently: prejudice and racism like this is harmful to all of us, to white and nonwhite, black and nonblack, Jewish and non-Jewish, Asian and non-Asian. We all suffer as a community if racism is purveyed as normal, only a thing of the past or applicable only to a few. It harms white children as well if they are led to believe that racism does not concern them, that they do not carry any responsibility to refuse the ugly burdens of the past.
Identifying racism in any form and teaching our children to repudiate it is a collective responsibility, which should not fall upon the shoulders of nonwhite parents alone. It is unfortunate enough that nonwhite people have to educate the 10 white library officials who rejected the suggestions of the parents who came to them. It is disgraceful that those library officials refused to listen.
The writer is an associate professor at Smith College in Northampton.