About the Numbers
Since we only collect books with white characters in those that depict Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC), it's important to remember that the numbers below are not reflective of white representation across the entire picture book industry. And yet, white characters are still represented in multicultural books at a higher rate than all of the racial/cultural groups we track except Black/African/African American. Also of note is the large number of white characters depicted in books portraying relationships across racial/cultural difference (Cross-Group) -- more than any other racial/cultural group in our collection.
Books that depict (positive, negative, or "neutral") relationships between white characters and BIPOC characters can help children learn about systemic white racism (historically and today) or foster connections across very real racial divisions in society today. But an overrepresentation of white characters in these books risks reinforcing the idea that there are no racial/cultural differences and/or divisions between BIPOC.
We argue for balanced portrayals of cross-difference relationships that show the full complexity and nuance of people negotiating race with one another, historically and today.
We invite you to consider the other meanings and effects these numbers may reveal.
Of the 589 books featuring White/European American/Caucasian characters:
|29% are books in which race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, culture, im/migration, and/or religious, sacred, or origin stories ARE NOT CENTRAL to the story. These elements may be present, but they are not essential to the plot and could be changed without altering the storyline. We call these Any Child Books.|
|15% are books in which race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, culture, im/migration, and/or religious, sacred, or origin stories ARE CENTRAL to the story. These books explicitly focus on the diverse expressions of human experience, depending on these elements to drive the storyline. We call these Beautiful Life books.|
|18% are Biographies, featuring the life of a particular person or group of people from a historical or contemporary perspective.|
|48% portray relationships between named characters across racial or cultural difference. We call these Cross-Group books.|
|2% are Folklore books, featuring tales, proverbs, songs, or legends and myths that transmit the values, knowledge, traditions, practices and rituals of a people.|
|22% feature a racially diverse cast of non-primary characters or a white or animal main character(s). We call these Incidental books.|
|6% present factual information (with or without a storyline) that does not always have to do with difference. These books may be encyclopedic. We call these Informational books.|
|16% are about group-based injustice and/or struggles for justice. We call these Oppression & Resilience books.|
|4% explore and/or compare specific aspects of human difference, inviting readers to consider varying perspectives related to race, ethnicity, culture, or tribal affiliation. We call these Concept books.|