About the Numbers
Similar to books that depict bi/multiracial characters, more than half of the books featuring brown-skinned, racially ambiguous characters (i.e. not identified in the visual or textual narrative as belonging to a specific racial/cultural group) do not make race, ethnicity or culture a part of the plot (Any Child). These characters are also frequently featured in interactions across racial or cultural difference (Cross-Group) and are very rarely featured in books about oppression.
These numbers may reflect what scholars have identified as a “post-racial” and “colorblind” ideology in the U.S., in which brown-skinned characters stand in for the belief that color, race, culture, and ethnicity don’t or shouldn’t matter to the lived experiences of people of color. That these characters are also featured more frequently in Cross Group stories risks contributing to the assumption that (even a perceived) lack of racial/cultural/ethnic identification is ideal for fostering relationships across difference.
While it’s important to reflect the existence of people of color who do not have strong racial, cultural, or ethnic identifications, it need not come at the expense of stories in which the surrounding culture and ideas about race/culture/ethnicity impact and shape their experiences nevertheless. Also, the call for racially- and culturally-diverse pictures books is not adequately answered by simply publishing more books that feature brown-skinned or racially ambiguous characters.
We invite you to consider the other meanings and effects these numbers may reveal.
Of the 168 books featuring Brown-Skinned characters:
|54% do not make race, ethnicity, or culture part of the plot. We call these Any Child Books.|
|14% take readers into the everyday world of characters in countries around the world, with specific cultural components such as language, food, celebrations, traditions, and/or other elements. We call these Beautiful Life books.|
|1% are biographies.|
|20% portray character interactions across racial or cultural difference. We call these Cross-Group books.|
|7% introduce readers to traditions, activities, languages and experiences, and includes all types of retellings and adaptations of traditional folktales. We call these Folklore books.|
|7% have a white protagonist. We call these Incidental books.|
|5% are nonfiction books that may not have a story line and do not always have to do with difference. These books are factual and may be encyclopedic. We call these Informational books.|
|1% are stories of prejudice, mistreatment and discrimination based on race, ethnicity or culture. We call these Oppression books.|
|5% invite readers to consider new perspectives related to racial, ethnic, or cultural commonalities and differences. We call these Concept books.|