The Association for Library Service to Children has decreed that Laura Ingalls Wilder “includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values,” and is no longer deserving of an award bearing her name.
he issue is racism. Let's examine a few passages from Laura's works:
So where's the racism?
n the above passages from Little House on the Prairie, Laura expresses a fondness of (and gratitude to) Dr. Tan, who doctored the settlers suffering from malaria. She relates her father's empathy for the Indians, including his rebuttal to Mr. Scott's assertion – and indeed, in the end of the book, when the Ingalls family is forced to leave the home they had established, illustrates that even the white settlers were forced to leave the land they loved and tended, thus experiencing the same heartbreak of displacement as those native Americans.
n that Laura penned a much more enthusiastic (and thus perceived as approbative) description of the minstrel show presented by the founding members of DeSmet in Little Town on the Prairie, the primary basis for the “evidence” of racist themes in her books is thereby supposedly established:
owever the elite wish to eradicate the past, the fact remains that minstrel shows were a significant component of American musical performance history. As John Kendrick writes on musicals101.com, “...minstrelsy provided African American performers with their first professional stage outlet,” and “Both white and black performers donned blackface, and audiences of all colors loved it.” Therefore, Laura simply relates an episode of entertainment that was common enough in her youth, using the verbiage of the time.
elective nit-picking in the name of Social Justice is no virtue, and such a narrow focus blinds its proponents to the true nature and intent of Laura's writings. As Donald Zochert wrote in Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder:
here is courage in looking at history – and historical fiction – and daring to learn from it. This was an act of cowardice. The Association for Library Service to Children should be ashamed.