Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness
Written & Illustrated by Anastasia Higginbotham
“You have an invitation to be part of something that transforms and heals the world… We get to shut down white supremacy. Imagine how that will feel! We can ground ourselves in a love for justice, and the truth will come into focus. We can model that kind of fierce love and courage for our kids.” ~ Author and Illustrator Anastasia Higginbotham
Anastasia Higginbotham was inspired to write Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness by the Black Lives Matter movement. In particular, she was inspired by Black women, specifically the Brooklyn Free School Executive Director Noleca Anderson Radway, Reverend angel Kyodo Williams, a Zen priest and the co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, and Anyanwu Uwa, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Human Root. The fourth in Higginbotham’s Ordinary Terrible Things series, this work uses evocative collage and matter-of-fact language to address white supremacism and privilege, and to promote the eradication of anti-Blackness systemically and within oneself. In other words, she presents the protagonist’s emerging understanding of “being white without signing on to whiteness.” This book speaks directly to the child reader. Higginbotham meets the reader where they are, trusting their strength to grapple with moments of everyday crisis and to face the complexities of the world.
(Pg. 11) If someone is stopped by the police and puts their hands up, they are saying “I am not trying to hurt you; I will cooperate.” Would it ever be okay for a police officer to hurt a person who has their hands up? Sometimes this does happen, and people have been hurt and killed. This happens more to Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) than it does to white people. It is a big problem in our country.
(Pg. 15) Which child is the security guard watching? Is that fair? Can you tell by the color of a person’s skin whether or not they will be careful or honest?
(Pg. 24) It can be hard to hear that you are responsible for helping to fix a problem that you did not start. But why do you think is it important to be a helper anyway?
(Pg. 54) You get to decide what kind of person you are and will become in the world. How will you use your power to change things when they are unfair in your community?
(Pg. 61) What is one way that you can imagine “disrupting white supremacy”? For example, in Harlem’s Little Blackbird, how did Florence Mills disrupt white supremacy as a child?
While we know that every shade of skin is beautiful, we live in a world that privileges-- or shows special treatment to-- people with white skin. Some people are okay with the world being unfair like this because it makes life easier for them. White people benefit from this system whether they want to or not. Recognizing that fact is the first step in a commitment to creating change.
White people can use the privileges that come from having white skin-- being listened to, having more opportunities, being safer when speaking up-- to show up with Black people to make the world safer and more fair. Together we can say “Hey, that is not fair. That rule is wrong” We can work to take apart the systems that give special treatment to white people.
Even though police are trained to be fair and to protect all citizens, implicit bias and racism can lead to harassment, unfair treatment, and the death of Black, brown, and indigenous people at the hands of police. BIPOC families teach their children specific ways to act carefully with police so that they have a better chance of remaining safe. It is not fair that these families have to worry more about their safety. There are people working to try to change this system. Your friends and members of your family may want to ignore this problem but you do not have to.