Sunday, October 25, 2020

"Redscales" (a stand-in for R*edskins) in DINO-THANKSGIVING

Update from Debbie on Tuesday, October 18, 2022: Today I received an email from the editorial folks at Lerner. The page in Dino-Thanksgiving that shows the "Redscales" has been changed. In the second edition, the dino brothers hope the "Rippers" win. The team colors are changed from maroon and gold to red and light blue (or maybe that is gray). Similar changes have been made throughout the earlier book (Dino-Football). Changes were made to all ebook formats, too. I'm grateful to everyone at Lerner who participated in the conversation and subsequent changes and feel confident they will carry this moment forward in their future work.  

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Last week I went to a local library to gather Thanksgiving books to see what I might see (patterns, etc). The library uses a turkey sticker on the spine. Rather than look up books, I scanned the top shelves in about half of the children's E section of the library, and on the "new books" shelf--pulling any book with a turkey sticker on it--until my arms were full. That was 19 books.

I got home and started reading, sorting, making notes, etc. This post is about one page in one of the books. The books have an array of problems but this one stands out because it came out this year (2020). The book is Dino-Thanksgiving written by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Barry Gott. In it, dinosaurs are gathering for a Thanksgiving feast. They do the sorts of things people do on Thanksgiving Day--like watching a football game:

That's a photo of the page. Those red arrows are by me, drawing attention to "Redscales" and the Pteros shown in a maroon and gold helmet and maroon and gold jerseys. There's no mistaking the parallel. The "Redscales" are a stand-in for the Washington DC professional football team. 

I assume the author and illustrator and art director and all the people in-house at Lerner Books thought it was cool or clever, but it isn't. I did a post about it on Facebook and tagged Lerner. The next morning, they replied, saying:
We appreciate those who have pointed out this insensitivity. We are changing the team name in reprints, and we’re discussing changes to the art as well. And we’re doubling down on our commitment to watch for things like this during our production process, and do better in the future.
I'm glad to know they're going to change it--but the question I and others have is--how did that happen in the first place? Resistance to mascots is national news! How did so many people involved with this book miss that problem? 

I'm sharing this with readers of AICL to encourage you to use social media when you see problems like this. Tag publishers when you speak up. Tag me if the content is specific to Native people, and I'll amplify what you say.