The Subtle Racism in Fun with Dick and Jane
A visual analysis of the kids books Fun with Dick and Jane to examine racism
The kids series Fun with Dick and Jane is a tool for learning how to read. I didn’t read them as a child, but my son is reading them. Considering as a society, we have been taking a closer look at how we represent race in media, I thought I would take a look at the book series. How well represented were different races and were they shown mixing? The result, as most of the issue of racism, is blurred and not clear cut, but it is suspicious enough to wonder if we should change the way we write books for our children.
Racism comes in three large components in literature:
- Lack of representation
- Stereotypical roles
So even when there is representation, if that representation shows segregated races, racism persists.
Each book contains around 30 stories, so I looked at how each story contained different ethnic groups. I logged the count, and I also looked at where in the books these stories were. So let’s see how these books do relative to the demographics of the United States.
To look at segregation, I have the mixed column which refers to when white people and non-white people are playing together.
I did not look at stereotypes in terms of what societal roles the people had because the stories were mostly kid play, and I felt I was lacking good enough data to draw any conclusions. If anything, the gender roles are definitely traditional to the 1960’s.
I have some columns with all zeros. It’s important to note that some times, racism is not showing something. Racism is silence. Racism is absence. Like when HGTV has a show (Home Town) in a small town In Mississippi that is 2/3 black, but they only show whites people.
Two of these books definitely have a decent distribution for black representation, and in terms of showing integration, only two books of the four do this well.
I have a note for brown people, but that is not to say specifically a group because I was not confident in determining that. I added the Asian column just to show for certain that they weren’t represented at all.
I’m sure as we take a deeper look at our literature for children that we love and grew up with, we will certainly find bias. Racism doesn’t exist only in certain parts of society, but throughout society even in the world of our children.
Racism is learned, and some times, we end up teaching our kids to be racist without realizing it.