A thought about sections…

4 Nov

Yesterday I was in the Atlanta airport.
As usual, I found the bookstore and spent some time perusing the shelves.

New Releases, Inspirational, Popular, Non Fiction, Classics, and…African American?!

I stopped.

It was the same size as all of the other sections and had everything from The Snowy Day (a children’s book by Ezra Jack Keats) to Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.

I can appreciate that such a section makes it easier to find books with characters and possibly themes that are African American. I also know that it is important for African American readers (children and adults alike) to read books that represent their lives and realities. This is true for any historically disadvantaged group – because take a look around, it’s much easier to find a book with a white character, a straight character, an able bodied character, or author or theme. In fact I almost bought The Snowy Day for my daughter, except that it was a board book, and she is past that stage.

Still, from a Diversity & Inclusion perspective, I have to wonder…

Who is NOT reading these books because they are not housed in the other sections to which they may belong?

Surely the books in the African American section must also fall within other categories such as New Releases, Inspirational (Hello? Nelson Mandela!?) etc. Putting them in their own section, while possibly convenient for African American buyers may also keep them out of the “mainstream” sections; keeps them separate.

It’s like segregation for books.

And when we do that, non African American’s may not go to that shelf. And therefore may not see them, consider them, have the opportunity to read them. Millions of people may miss wonderful and meaningful books. And similarly African American’s may not peruse the other sections for gems either (but in a culture dominated by non African American writers, I doubt that). I certainly wondered why some of the books in the African American section weren’t with the others in the categories they match with. If I’m looking for Inspirational, I’d love to see Long Walk to Freedom there. It’s not just an African American book.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but it sure made me wonder.

See more. 

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Radio Show Host – Creating Families


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