There was a fine article in Ye Olde New York Times about the dearth of kids books with latino main characters, particularly ones that aren't about either migrant workers or Cinco de Mayo.
And within this article Julia Alvarez is quoted as saying, “My skin crawls a little when this literature is introduced because
people are being righteous." A sort of: don't do this just to make them Latino. But I think: maybe actually do do it just to make them Latino.
Note: I know she's more talking about Literature. Which: OK. Fine. But a lot of what we're talking about? Cam Jansen? I don't think so.
There are so many, many crappy books, with completely unrealistic, cardboard (white) characters. And kids love them. Think the hideous Mary-Kate and Ashley detective stories of my girls' feckless youth, or the Dear Dumb Diary books, or the Candy Apple books. Do we really think that these characters were white in some deep-seated, psychologically astute, inevitable literary truth way? I think not. I think they're more white in some reflexive, ruling class, generally blind to the rest of the world, hegemonic (is that the word?) way. Books that seem more produced by committee than written. And for these? I say go ahead, just force the issue and make characters non-white—just freaking do it.
It makes a difference to see your face out there in the world. My friend's son, who is black, saw this comic book, last year, when she brought it home for him.
He opened the cover, and inside is Spiderman, his mask off, his face black. And he got quiet, and his eyes got big and amazed and he said, "Mom…is that me?"
Do you think that Spiderman is black because it made some kind of internal literary sense? Or do you think they thought, "Holy crap, we've been making everyone, everywhere white, we should think about making at least someone black, what are our marketing numbers on Spiderman?" I don't think it matters which they said, actually. I think what matters is that kids get to look in a comic book, and see themselves sometimes. I think there should be so many different faces it doesn't have to be a conscious effort anymore. And when someone is adjusting the settings on the automatic story creation machines that churn out soothing mindless crap for kids? I think they should change the settings to "represent everyone."
This, at any rate, is my current half-baked idea.