Anti-Racism by Arike Oke

The Blurb On The Back:

Maybe you are being bullied and you think it could be racial bullying.  Perhaps you know someone who is being treated badly because of racism and you want to help them.

Being anti-racist means being active against racism.  This books gives some tips about how to be anti-racist in a positive and safe way.

THE KIDS’ GUIDE: ANTI-RACISM was released in the United Kingdom on 22nd September 2022.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

You can order THE KIDS’ GUIDE: ANTI-RACISM by Arike Oke from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Arike Oke is the former Managing Director for Black Cultural Archives.  This guide for readers aged 9+ on how to stop racism (illustrated by Scott Garrett)  is well intentioned and good at describing the emotional effects of racism, bullying and micro aggressions but some of the metaphors on the dangerous effects of racism didn’t quite work and the advice on how to counter it doesn’t take into account structural racism within institutions.

There are a lot of good things about this book.  One is particularly good at showing the emotional effects of racism on individuals, by creating examples of different characters placed in situations where they are subjected to racism or micro aggressions and then setting out their emotional reaction to the same.  She also does a good job of setting out various ways in which you can help people who are being subjected to that type of behaviour (including ways of finding out about different cultures without being offensive or upsetting them).  Garrett’s illustrations are very good at bringing out the emotions at play in these scenarios and supporting the text.

However some of the advice on what to do if you witness racism doesn’t take into account what to do if the institution is racist.  For example, there’s advice here about documenting what you witness and telling teachers, parents, responsible adults who you trust or the police in an emergency.  I have to say that while I understood the advice to call the police, having heard anecdotal evidence about what’s happened to children and teenagers of colour when they have called the police, I’d have liked to have seen that addressed or acknowledged.  Similarly, if you’re at a school where numerous teachers display racist behaviour, there’s no advice on what to do about it (beyond speaking to a parent or responsible adult you trust) or calling Childline (which is an excellent charity but what they can do about it is open to question).

On a different front, some of the imagery used in the book didn’t quite work for me, e.g. an analogy comparing racism to fire in a field and a recipe for confidence isn’t bad advice but isn’t going to work for everyone (and ironically is one area where I think speaking to a trusted adult or friends can be helpful).

All this sounds like I’m being down on the book and I’m not trying to be.  I think there is definitely useful information here and I’d stress that a book dealing with a topic as vast and complex as this cannot possibly cover all the bases.  However I do think that there are some areas that this book should have acknowledged and for that reason, I thought this was an okay book on the topic rather than a must-read.  

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