Brooklyn author Anastasia Higginbotham’s new children’s book, “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness,” makes use of a contemporary, and controversial, figure in its theme of battling racism: former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Higginbotham has even made a cardboard cut-out of the football player — taking a knee, of course — for her readings/presentations to to children.
“Colin Kaepernick kneels for justice; he kneels for an end to police brutality; he kneels for equity in education and economic justice,” Higginbotham reads to a small group of kids. “So I’m going to kneel next to him as I read.”
According to The Jamestown Sun, “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness” is the latest offering of the author’s “Ordinary Terrible Things” children’s line of books. Other titles include “Divorce is the Worst,” “Death is Stupid” and “Tell Me About Sex, Grandma.” But “Whiteness” is the first book put out by Jennifer Baumgardner’s Dottir Press, a publishing house “founded in feminism.”
Baumgardner had worked with Higginbotham on previous books, but by 2014 they knew Higginbotham needed to tackle racism. Black Lives Matter was emerging in opposition to police killings of black men and the media coverage was so ever-present that no one could escape it, even kids.
“I’m not afraid to look at a painful history, a history in which people who look like me did things they never should have done. I want to look at that history,” Higginbotham says. “It’s my fight and my liberation that is tied up in black liberation.”
Higginbotham says she was raised to recognize racism as evil and felt sorry for those who suffered from it, but she now sees that approach as somewhat “patronizing” and a root of Whiteness, something she describes as the centuries-old indoctrinating lie that “whites are in some way superior.”
“As a white child myself, seeing myself as separate from issues of race, seeing racism as a problem happening to someone else, someone else’s fight and seeing myself helpless to do anything about that, that has served the status quo,” she says. “There’s a lot of this clouding our thinking that tells us we can’t do anything about it.”
The author, who gave a presentation on the book at Minnesota State University Moorhead yesterday, notes she uses “every chance” she can to let her family know “that white superiority is a lie, that white innocence is a lie.” She tells them to “question everything you’re being told about your goodness and your value as a white person.”
She acknowledges that using Kaepernick will offend some folks, enough that they’ll ignore the book’s overall message. However, she says “there was no way to do this book well or do it justice by going soft.”