I learned about Scholastic’s new children’s book, A Birthday Cake for George Washington,when a friend emailed me on Friday to ask, “Uh … have you seen this [expletive]?” Her note was accompanied by the book’s back cover, which depicted an illustration of a smiling enslaved man and child, accompanied by their beaming master—America’s first president, George Washington. Washington had his arm around the enslaved man’s shoulder like they were bros instead of oppressor and oppressed.
My knee-jerk reaction was a string of expletives as I tried to process this level of disrespect. Can you imagine a modern-day American publisher pushing a book about a cheery Jewish father and daughter on a trivial mission to bake a cake for the birthday of, say, an SS guard at Auschwitz? Can you picture a children’s book depicting a Jewish dad and child at a concentration camp snuggled up and cozy with Hitler?
Never! So why is it somehow OK to show enslaved black folks practically cuddling with their oppressors?
I woosahed. I had to be misunderstanding. Scholastic is a respected children’s book publisher. They deserved the benefit of the doubt. This book couldn’t be what I was imagining. There had to be levels, satire … something I wasn’t getting.Read More