I'm a grown(ish) woman who loves media made for teenagers. It can provide, as entertainment is so often meant to, a bit of escape from pressures of the adult “real world” I've found myself thrust into only semi-prepared. It takes me back to the time when the problems of life tended toward the frivolous and easily solved, though they felt just as intense. And although young adult literature, which is my favorite form of teen media, can and does tackle more serious issues, I tend to gravitate towards more lighthearted stories.
This escapism is just as important for the audience these books are meant for—teens—as it is for me. And yet, now that I am older and revisiting old favorites, it strikes me as odd and disheartening to realize how many of these books are sorely lacking in black protagonists. It’s surprising, because it means that as a teen I clearly had accepted and did not question this obvious erasure of my black female identity. Now, as an aspiring young adult novelist myself, I wonder how damaging it actually is to our teenagers’ sense of humanity.
We need stories for and about black youth. We need stories where they are painted in the same light as their white counterparts. "I turned to books to figure out how to navigate life and relationships," said I.W. Gregario, a founding member of the We Need Diverse Books campaign. As a result of not seeing her identity as an Asian woman represented in the literature she loved, she says she became self-hating.
Author Varian Johnson, who is Black, offered a similar perspective: "You walk into a bookstore and it's a sea of white. It's tough when you're not represented out there in the world—it makes you feel very strange about yourself, like you don't matter."
We live in a society that sees black kids as both less innocent and older than white children. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that “black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.” The U.S. Department of Education revealed in a report that black children face discrimination as early as pre-school. This systemic dehumanization has life-altering results in the case of, say, Dajerria Beckton who was tackled at a pool party, or the life-ending case of Tamir Rice.
Read more: http://www.forharriet.com/2015/07/heres-why-black-youth-representation-in.html#ixzz49gwXF4cW Follow us: @ForHarriet on Twitter | forharriet on Facebook