Have you ever heard the term “antiracist”? What does it mean to be an antiracist? Winner of multiple awards including, the National Book Award and the W.E.B. duBois Book Prize, Ibram X. Kendi teams up with Ashley Lukashevsky to offer an honest, yet age appropriate board book for babies and older. In it, Kendi sets out to declare that we are not inherently born racist. Instead, racism is something that is modeled to us. This modeling, occurs through systemic policies, grouping of people, silence and much more. This 32 page board book offers nine points to people to “make equity a reality” (Kendi & Lukashevsky, 2020). Kendi, is a complete authority on the subject of race due to his experience and knowledge of Black studies, slavery and racism in America. The narration of the book is appropriate for its audience in that it uses rhyme and rhyme without losing the strong message for them and the readers of this work. The illustrations, realistic, yet cartoon-like are colorful with shades of green, pink, blue and orange and utilize images that are appropriate for the audience and seamlessly compliment Kendi’s narrative.
EVALUATION OF BOOK
Until the publication this book, Kendi was not known for his children’s books. Of his seven published books, such as, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and The Black Campus Movement, Kendi is also contributes essays to such journals as Journal of Social History, and has written for The New York Times and The Atlantic. While Stamped form the Beginning, along with a prologue, notes, and index, runs a hefty 582 pages, Antiracist Baby is a 32 page board book. This is both impressive and shocking. How does Kendi use the knowledge he has and create a baby board book with it? The way in which he accomplishes this is by creating a list of 9 ways in which to be an Antiracist Baby. These nine ways include – seeing the color of peoples skin, talking about racism, understanding inherently racist policy and celebrating the differences of people, just to name of few. In place of a note laden history book, we have a rhyming, numbered narrative that is great reading from infants and beyond.
While instructional in nature, this book is of incredible importance because it addresses a phenomena that many people might not know. Children actually perceive racial differences and in some instances, have developed preferences and racist beliefs about them well before they enter grade school (“Children notice,” 2020). For example, the fourth bullet of the book states, “Shout, “there’s nothing wrong with the people!” Even though all races are not treated the same, “We are all human!” Antiracist Baby can proclaim” (Kendi & Lukashevsky, 2020, pp. 11-12). For an infant and toddler exposure to this concept can lay the groundwork for believing in equity and embracing people as people, and not as specific groups. Another point that Kendi states is, “Open your eyes to all skin colors. Antiracist Baby learns all the colors, not because race is true. If you claim to be color-blind, you deny what’s right in front of you” (pp. 5-6). Young people might hear a well meaning person say that they do not see color or rather they see beyond color. Kendi emphatically tells the young reader that we need to notice our differences in skin color because that can be the starting point for understanding people that do not look like you.
Lukashevsky is inventive, and all-inclusive in her cartoonlike illustrations. The illustrations are colorful in ways that are not usually utilized in children’s books. Aside from her use of greens, blues, pinks and the color orange, Lukashevsky represents a myriad of people with different bodies, skin tones, religious affiliation, sexual orientation and sizes. In the opening instruction, where Kendi says to be aware of different skin colors, Lukashevsky shows three different families, ranging in size, skin color and style. For the fourth instruction, she displays four difference couples, one of which are two women and another couple with a woman wearing a hijab. Their hair, face shape and size also differ (See Image 2 & 3).
In this way, the illustration is carried out at an appropriate for the audience. The characters above, for example, are clearly people of different shape, size, color and more, but all love their children. In other pages, Lukashevsky uses other ways to represent abstract concepts such as a butterfly. In the instruction that states that policies are not always equal to all, she shows an image of a butterfly pollinating a flower, while another butterfly is being caught in a net with other similar looking butterflies. However, it is an easier to understand and visual way to see a more mature concept of inequality. When a child sees certain butterflies thriving and others not, that is a clearer way demonstrate that. Therefore, Lukashevsky not only supports Kendi’s writing, but enforces it with easy to understand illustrations.
Kendi and Lukashevsky bring Antiracist Baby to the world of childrens books as a call to action of perception. Through Kendi’s set of nine instructions, the young reader is given a concrete plan and way of viewing the world in order to be antiracist. Lukashevsky brings her skill and understanding of the concepts of book to bring the images to life, even when the images represent abstract concepts. For a child that has two mothers, or a child whose mother wears a hijab, this book might be a rare book that includes an image that looks like them. This book is a must have for any library. As Kendi says, teaching a child to be an antiracist begins when children are born and this book is a great start.
Kendi, I.X & Lukashevsky, A. (2020). Antiracist baby. Penguin Random House, LLC.
American Psychological Association. (2020, August 27). Children notice race several years before adults want to talk about it [Press release]. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2020/08/children-notice-race