I read Hank the Cowdog several years ago when I was a paraeducator at an Elementary School. I tried to convince teachers and the librarian that the coyote images (believe me when I say the visual images are as bad or worse than the verbal ones)would make readers think of American Indians and were terribly derogatory and insulting. Needless to say I was pretty thoroughly ignored - and the series is a best seller! My granddaughter now is reading the series so I talked with her about the coyote images and she said, "I know they're just made up coyotes, Grandma, Indians are totally different." I hope she truly does understand. Thank you for persevering in the face of continual publisher and author insensitivity. Some of us are listening.
I read her words just after reading about a study in brain research that found people 'feel the pain' of people like them more readily than they 'feel the pain' of people who are not like them. You can read about the study in Science Daily. Obviously, Betsy's colleagues were unable to feel the pain of Native children who would see the coyotes as derogatory. Read the study, "Less Empathy Toward Outsiders."
How can we use the study? Is it possible we can say to people who are unmoved by our words "Hey, it isn't your fault, it is your brain's fault. You're hard wired not to care. But it doesn't have to be that way. Take command. Override what your brain is telling you."
I'm glad that Betsy's granddaughter understands that Indians aren't like the coyotes, but WHY is that conversation even necessary? Do we have that conversation about other groups? Any groups? Do you hand your child/student a book and say 'oh, and that part about X group, ignore it. It isn't accurate." How much does that happen?