The “I” is Always White
The fifth incarnation of the “Everything I Need to Know About…I Learned From A Little Golden Book” series by longtime Golden Books editor Diane Muldrow is available.
From Amazon: “Have you ever wished your family were a little more . . . perfect? The brand that most represents idyllic perfection actually confirms that there is no such thing. But it does show that joy and love can be found in the imperfect!”
My purpose here is to make visible what is invisible: the unspoken assumption that the world is white and everyone in it is white. That “I” and “We” are white. The writer is white; the reader is assumed to be white; and the cultural and historical references and images are for white people. More importantly, it is expected that African-Americans, Native-Americans, Asian-Americans, Middle and East Indian-Americans, and all other non-white Americans can and should relate.
Like her previous “Everything I Need to Know…” books, Muldrow borrows illustrations from vintage books and adds her own words of wisdom and insight. It begins with an image of the “perfect family” and our collective desire for one:
There are sixty-nine images in total. Twenty are of furry creatures. Five are of non-whites. There is one of a light brown-skinned sleeping baby — which is actually quite sweet — taken from the book Prayers for Children, 1974 . A Hispanic child and baby are taken from Baby Sister, 1986. A charming classroom picture from We Like Kindergarten, 1965, illustrated by Eloise Wilkens, once considered “the soul of Golden Books”, includes a smartly-dressed black boy. The South Seas Island girl, Ukulele, from Ukulele and Her New Doll, is pictured eating with her family. (She and her family are lighter-skinned than their 1951 counterparts.) And lastly, there is a colorful drawing of a brown father and child. The only non-Golden Book image; probably added for the sake of posterity.
I am sure Little Golden Books is not consciously trying to re-write history. Nor would they argue that America belongs to white people. But, if they believe that this book, with its images of a white-remembered and longed-for past does not make a statement, then they are sadly mistaken.
As I wrote earlier, the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s were difficult and painful times for many Americans, but mostly for non-white Americans: segregated armed forces, Jim Crow, Indian Schools, overt educational and housing discrimination, forced resettlement of non-white cultures, and many other prejudices. Not to mention their absence of representation in politics and other positions of power and authority. Times continue to be difficult for non-whites. Racism, prejudice, and discrimation still exist.
Again, Memory Lane for Whom?
“Everything I Need To Know I Learned From A Little Golden Book is so overwhelmingly white-centered it pains the eye and pierces the soul of the millions of us who cannot, will not, claim that level of unconsciousness.”
This book is for white-Americans only. For it is their imagined past that is getting re-written, glorified, and made nostalgic. That is why white Americans gobble this book up.
Nothing in this book is true or compelling. It is exclusionary. It is about who is inside and who is outside. It contributes to the cultural climate and the belief that real Americans are white.
Why else was President Obama’s citizenhship questioned?