I remember reading about Marley Dias previously. She’s back in the news:
Rescue people in another galaxy? Escape from a tower with a dragon’s help? Visit England, China, and India, and still be back for dinnertime?
That’s all in a day’s read for 11-year-old Marley Dias, who was featured in TODAY’s “Can-Do Kids” series on Tuesday.
“When I get lost in a book, it’s just, like, magical!” Dias told TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager.
The New Jersey sixth grader’s love for reading was profound but not blind. After spending years of her life stepping into new worlds with every turn of a page, she noticed a common theme she felt needed to be addressed.
“All of the books that I was reading had white boys and dogs as the main character, and I was pretty sick of it,” Dias said. “I’m pretty sure my other classmates were too, but I was just the one to speak up about it.”
Or maybe she’s the only one out of her classmates who was indoctrinated on a recipe of diversity/multiculturalism and the concept of institutionalized racism?
With the help of her mom, Dr. Janice Johnson Dias, the 11-year-old took action, in the form of a hashtag.
The campaign, #1000BlackGirlBooks, was designed with the goal of collecting 1,000 books featuring black girls as the protagonists that would then be donated to schools and libraries. About 7,000 books later not only did Dias surpass her goal, but she started a conversation that she hopes to continue with kids across the country.
“I want them to understand that these voices matter and that there’s not just one experience that people can learn from,” Dias said.
Dias and her mother brought 1,600 books to her mother’s former school in Jamaica last March. What the pair discovered is this was not a “Marley issue,” or something isolated to “one little back girl.” Johnson Dias, who holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Temple University, realized it wasn’t until college that she even read a book with a main character that looked like her.
Okay, I didn’t grow up reading books and lamenting because the heroes and characters of a novel “didn’t look like me”- why would I expect them to? What does that even mean, “a main character that looked like her”? Oh…..I get it: Meaning characters who are black. Stuck on skin color. *Sigh*
Marley sounds like a bright kid; and kudos to her for being activist and showing leadership and taking initiative. However, I truly feel the kid has been impoverished by her perception, placing self-imposed limitations and hang-ups over something we should all get over: The concept of “race”. Of obsessing and being made self-conscious of “skin color”.
I feel that I grew up well-adjusted. Despite (or because of) reading many books about heroes and characters who are not Asiatic but who I imagined myself as being or whose story and adventures I enjoyed reading about: Tarzan, Conan the Cimmerian, Encyclopedia Brown, Sherlock Holmes, Sydney Carton, D’Artagnan, Sir Gareth of Orkney, Perseus, Apollo, Siegfried, etc. Some weren’t even human- Legolas, for instance (Dias probably wonders why Tolkien elves must all be “fair of skin”).
Same with watching movies and television: James Bond, Captain Kirk, James West, Godzilla, Steve Austin the bionic man. Am I white-washed because I live in a pre-dominately white society? Call me a twinkie, and I’ll laugh and shrug my shoulders. Although the U.S. embraces the “melting pot” concept of absorbing all cultures and ethnicities, its founding and early-years shaping is due to white Europeans/western civilization. Namely Britain. Today, I have no qualms about identifying with characters in entertainment who share my “skin hue”/ethnicity or who aren’t white men, as there is more diversified character-heroes now (biggest money-making movie star today, I believe is Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson); but I don’t need it “shoved down my throat” and forced merely for the sake of “diversity”. Why continue to draw attention to and highlight a character’s ethnicity and gender identity and sexual preference? Why make it a central issue?
If a segment of today’s society didn’t place so much emphasis over melanin count and obsess over diversity/multiculturalism/race issues, Marley Dias might not have developed a hang-up over perceiving that the skin color/race/gender of the protagonists she was reading about mattered.
Today, we apparently need a Hispanic Spiderman. A black Nick Fury. A black James Bond or female Jane Bond. A black James West (in case you didn’t realize it from the photo above, I claim being the first Oriental James West- yes, I have no issues with the term “Oriental”). A female Thor. There’s a push for not only Abe Lincoln to be gay, but also Captain America to develop something beyond a bromance with Bucky. Next there will be a quota placed on making enough characters Buddhist, atheist, and Muslim to counterbalance the number of characters identifying with being Christian.
Why? I’m secure enough in my own skin not to need the crutch of tokenism.