How young is too young to learn how to be antiracist—and can you learn antiracism without a comprehensive understanding of what racism is? This is arguably the real question undergirding the otherwise inane (and wholly fabricated) fear of critical race theory. The academic field of study has never (ever) been taught to children in America’s educational system, but has now become a blanket term for teaching any honest rendering of American history and its grounding in racial privilege, thanks to a frighteningly effective conservative spin.
However, for those who do want to raise antiracist and historically astute children, the tools do exist. Among them, YA author Jason Reynolds’ version of Ibram X. Kendi’s best-selling Stamped from the Beginning, remixed last year for an adolescent audience as Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You (and just as educational and insightful for adult audiences). Reynolds’ version was then adapted yet again by Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul for an even younger audience as Stamped for Kids.
As Reynolds reminded us when he appeared on The Root Presents: It’s Lit! last fall, not only is understanding the history of racism not too adult for children, but they’re already being well educated in adult themes.
“All of your favorite books you read when you were in the seventh and eighth grade and you call them classics...they will be categorized as young adult: To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Lord of the Flies, The Catcher in the Rye, all these books that everybody looks at as part of the American canon,” Reynolds noted, later adding: “Those folks who look down upon children’s literature, don’t know that they’re not looking down upon children’s literature. They’re looking down upon children. Right?”
We’d posit that the same is true of children’s understanding of race in America—a dynamic they’re already confronting daily. With both the education and conscience of the nation’s children at stake in the manufactured battle over critical race theory, we couldn’t help but revisit our copies of Stamped—which, for the record, is a historical analysis, not a CRT text, by any means. We’re also recasting our conversation with the always erudite Jason Reynolds on The Root Presents: It’s Lit!: Jason Reynolds On Why Kids Are The Best Audience To Write For, available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, Amazon, TuneIn, and Radio Public. Also available is a transcript of the episode.