Social Equality in Children’s Literature Essay
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Student Name Professor Name Subject 20 June 2012 Social Equality in Children’s Literature To begin with, we should say what social equality is in general. Social equality is a state of social affairs where all the people within the same group or any other formation have the same rights and, what is more important, the same status in certain respects. Some basic differences may divide people in social hierarchy. The main ones are gender, race, or wealth. But why is it so significant especially in children literature?
To my mind, the second question is whether there is any social equality in children literature.
I think there are a lot of books which show this problem. To traverse this problem we’ll discuss some children books. And in the books under analysis people suffer from race division. Unfortunately, race is an outdated concept for distinguishing people. Racism has always been the greatest problem for the USA, especially considering African Americans. Equal rights and social value is a matter that needs to be taken extremely seriously.
Martin Luther King Jnr, Gandhi, Jesus, Malcolm X, Pope John II, The Dalai Lama, St Francis of Assisi and even John Lennon all believed that social rights and being equal, no matter who you are, is one of the most important things in the world to conquer. Maybe, children books are the first sources of anti-racism and helpers to fight with social inequality. Let’s think broader to understand this. The first book to discuss is The Watson’s Go to Birmingham by C. P. Curtis. It is a historical fiction book. And there is 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham.
This moment was a critical catalyst of the American civil rights movement. Could we judge a historical book as children one? Let’s dwell on the details. Because Kenny, the main character, tells the story of his family’s trip to the Deep South, the reader gets to experience what is was like to grow up during the height of the civil rights struggle. In the first part Kenny introduces his family, so called “Weird Watsons”. They live in Flint, Michigan, while Grandma Sands lives in Alabama. Both places are under rather intriguing seasons. The family have to run away to save themselves.
That is not the only reason. Kelly is bullied at school. This is both because of his being an excellent student and some civil inequality. But to my mind, children become to bully, as for a civil aspect, only after their parents’ words or actions. They are too young to judge a person properly. Anyway, the book remains just a story about a family, but some moments, such as the church bombings or the murder of Emmet Till, makes it very powerful. What is more, Birmingham, as the centre of action, also is the centre of civil fights and maybe it could be a symbol of that time.
As for national equality, not the whole book, but significant moments in it are the greatest examples of the problem. But to understand everything it is better to read and fell it. The second book under analysis is Monster by W. D. Myers. It is a drama novel. To continue our discussing according to the theme let’s say about the characters and the problems described in the novel. Steve Harmon is an African American who is on trial for felony murder in New York City. Peer pressure is the main theme which then affected how Steve ended up. As for humanity, Steve is called “Monster”. He starts thinking over it.
This book could be named autobiographical, because Myers was often laughed at at school. And this story is scribbled on the pages of the novel, as the author took his school teacher’s advice and wrote at night after work just as then Steve did. Although the novel is focused on moral and then social issues, it definitely touches some social problems. Some comment about being black that already may make a person guilty brings up a long-standing social issue about discrimination against African Americans in law enforcement. The question of social equality appears in bullying, and it becomes much greater during the trial.
I think Steve is accused as guilty only because of his skin color. Myers was highly prized for his book as the contribution to children’s literature. The next book to pay attention to is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by M. D. Taylor. It was even adopted as TV series what can say the author is a master. Action takes place in Depression time. That time was harder than ever for the whole America. There are two points of view in this book: fortunate Logans and a lot of people – both black and white – are living as sharecroppers. This makes racially motivated crimes common. The novel shows the necessity in owing the lands.
But the main theme, to my mind, is the effect of racism. The first sign of racism appears even at school in the state of books. For white students they are new and for black ones the books are in poor condition. The Logans prove that even being black doesn’t prevent anybody to become rich. The Wallace family is the most racist and all the sharecroppers’ families fear them. But as for Cassie, the narrator, and the families, her one owns, the Wallaces don’t play rather great role. The main life lesson Cassie takes is that material independence may be the key to ethical independence.
This type of narration enables Taylor to juxtapose childhood innocence and show wonder of bigotry and racism. And the author, through the child’s eyes, without any polemics or even bitterness, shows the greatest problems of that time with surprise and growing disappointment. Taylor doesn’t make any effort to soften the affect of racism problems and shows the influence events of the 1930s had on the civil rights formation and famous Black Power movements of the 1950s and 1960s. And this enables the reader to understand those feelings the girl had. The novel is highly prized by most critics.
Now we go to Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer ; Randy DuBurke. This book is like a philosophical reflection. It shows the thoughts about black pride, Black Nationalism and pan-Africanism. Some critics name this book as the most read and influential book among young people of any racial background. What is more interesting, some chapters were silenced by FBI. Characters in the book mostly associate with other people to meet them and treat them like objects rather than human beings. And this aspect is pointed out in the autobiography to show how hierarchy of social status affects self-esteem.
Neither his friends nor his family recognizes Malcolm as a person. The use his skin color as demonstration of their tolerance and broadmindedness. The only wish is to gain the status for them. But Malcolm uses his girlfriend as the same symbol or status and then this action turns to him: Malcolm becomes a symbol of the Nation of Islam’s vitality. This all makes any person to degrade. Only after passing through so many phases and seeing the race problem from so many different points of view Malcolm is able to settle on a philosophy in which he truly believes.
Malcolm is represented in the book in a lot of guises, beginning from Malcolm Little and then Malcolm El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz appears. And through all this changing eyes we see racism problems and Malcolm’s attitude on them. All problems about equality are surrounded about racism. In this case it is not white people against African Americans but believes in so called “Black Pride” or black power. Malcolm, using people as marionettes, becomes a marionette partially in fate’s hands and then in the hands of nationalistic organization.
Only faith in himself may save Malcolm from losing his soul in the fight for status in “equal” hierarchy. And at last our attention goes to I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The book is autobiographical. I was written in 1969. The name speaks for itself. Caged in racism and trauma, a person can overcome it with the help of strength and love. Angelou describes such problems as identity, rape, racism and literacy. All this affects her life less or more. It happens so, that Stamps, Arkansas, is so segregated, that the girl can’t even believe that white people exist.
But getting older Maya is confronted by rougher incidents of racism. Children books describe all the events which are no for children at all. BT described from the child’s point of view, they make the reader fell everything by himself with the same curiosity and then growing disappointment. Just skin color makes even her name a great problem. There are also some social events described in the book. Their importance for African Americans is unbelievable. But social realities remain unjust. And all this confine and demean Maya and her relatives.
She comes to thoughts that living in racist society and so being under pressure shapes the character, both hers and the members of her family, but she finds some power to surmount them. The book was used for teacher education. As for censors, the prohibited book’s usage at school, because of some scenes, e. g. eight-year-old girl’s raping. To my mind, such books should present in school curriculums to prevent racism development or to teach children how to cooperate with such problems if it happens so. We discussed five different but, at the same time, so equal books.