It was just last week that educators from the Middleton Heights Elementary School dressed up for Halloween as the U.S.–Mexico border wall and other racist stereotypes. This was a direct shot at those of us who call ourselves Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, or Latinas. These images flooded social media and the Latinx community took notice. But instead of fighting hate with more hate, Latinx authors extended an olive branch to to the Middleton School District and penned this open letter in response.
Here is how a few Latinx authors responded on Twitter:
A group of us Latinx authors of kid lit have decided to do something to support the students (especially the Latinx children) at Middleton Heights Elementary. “An Open Letter to the Middleton School District from Authors in the Latinx in Kidlit Community” https://t.co/8BrHRylVUj
— David Bowles (Ocēlōtōn in Tlamatini) (@DavidOBowles) November 5, 2018
The sad event at Middleton Heights Elementary School made us, the Latinx writing community, think, reflect, and step up to the plate. Please share widely and, if you can, encourage this district to take us up on our offer. https://t.co/NvBhTI1AdU
— Guadalupe G. McCall (@ggmccall) November 5, 2018
The Latinx children’s & YA community was beyond upset to learn of the cruel racism displayed at Middleton Heights Elementary school.
We decided to do something about it.
— Jenny Torres Sanchez (@jetchez) November 5, 2018
Prominent and respected authors such as Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Carmen Tafolla, Erika L. Sanchez and David Bowles, to name a few, are offering the Middleton School District an opportunity to host them and others so the district can be given a presentation to a general assembly. The goal is to “give motivational speeches to inspire students to accept, love and respect each other as we build community in our country.” The authors are also willing to read excerpts from their award-winning books, speak to and support the district’s faculty, and donate books by Latinx authors to “enhance your classroom and school libraries.”
Latinx authors approached the Teen Library Toolbox (TLT), a professional development website for teen librarians, and asked if they would graciously post the open letter to the Middleton School District in hopes that “members of the ‘Latinx authors in the Kidlit’ community could make an attempt to counter the hate that was on display last week in this school district.” The TLT stated that the “best way to counter hate and bias is by speaking love, and these authors are offering to do just that. I sincerely hope that the Middleton Heights School District will take these authors up on their generous offer in an effort to undo the damage that these teachers have done to children who are developing their view of self and others and their place in our world.”
It seems as if there are no safe spaces for people of color. If institutional racism has infiltrated our elementary schools, where children are so impressionable, then the roots of racism and misunderstanding are grounded so deep that they are here to stay. It is a travesty to have to explain incidents like this one to our children. We see our people and our culture being mocked by those who are small-minded enough to put that kind of garbage out on social media platforms. People need to be better. We, as a country, need to be better.
I think of this ancient proverb when individuals attempt to marginalize people of color: “They tried to bury us; they didn’t know we were seeds.” There is no word yet on whether the school district will take the Latinx authors up on their proposal. The healing power of books is undeniable, so let’s hope they do indeed host them.