However, Cruz focused most of his questions on two children’s books: “Antiracist Baby” and “Stamped (For Kids).” And his characterizations of those titles were largely distorted.
The claim: Cruz said he was “stunned” by the ideas in the book.
“Part of the book says, ‘Babies are taught to be racist or anti-racist — there’s no neutrality.’ Another part of the book, they recommend that babies ‘confess if they’re racist,'” he said at the hearing. Cruz added that the book is being taught to Georgetown Day School students ages 4 to 7, asking Jackson, “Do you agree with this book teaching kids that babies are racist?”
The reality: Cruz’s characterization takes the ideas in the book out of context.
In “Antiracist Baby”, Kendi argues that children are not born racist, but learn racist attitudes from an early age from the world around them. To counter those messages, Kendi writes, parents and caregivers should help children learn to be anti-racist.
The book encourages children to openly acknowledge differences in skin color, rather than pretending they don’t exist. It asks them to celebrate differences between cultures, not to see one group as better or worse than another and to constantly learn and grow. It invites them to talk openly about race and admit where they have fallen short.
Crucially, “Antiracist Baby” advises children to “point to the policy as the problem, not the people” and proclaim that “although not all races are treated the same, we are all people.”
Stamped (for children)
The claim: Cruz called this book “astonishing.”
He opened the book and said to Jackson, “On page 33 the question is asked, ‘Can we send whites back to Europe?’ That is given to 8 and 9 year olds.”
The senator continued: “It also reads on page 115: ‘The idea that we should pretend we don’t see racism is related to the idea that we should pretend we don’t see color. It’s called color blindness.'”
Cruz went on to quote other phrases from the book, including “Here’s what’s Wrong with it: It’s ridiculous. Skin color is something we all definitely see” and “So pretending you don’t see color is pretty helpful when you don’t see color.” really want to eradicate racism in the first place.”
The reality: Again, the passages recited by Cruz are a serious mischaracterization.
The sentence “Can we send whites back to Europe?” those Cruz references on page 33 appear aside in a chapter on the contradictions in how Thomas Jefferson spoke of slavery and how he acted. The book explains how some white assimilationists, including Jefferson at one point, advocated the return of black people to Africa and the Caribbean — places alien to many of the people in question.
In explaining the problems inherent in that idea, the book states this aside: Do you see how racist ideas of today are connected with racist ideas of the past? The phrase “Go back to where you came from” sometimes said to black and brown people today ties into the “go back” ideas of the past. Now you can trace its origins back to Thomas Jefferson. (By the way, imagine what Native Americans and black people must have wished about their white oppressors: Can we send whites “back” to Europe?)
Here the sentence “Can we send whites back to Europe?” shows clearly how illogical is the idea of ’sending people back to where they came from’.
On page 115, the phrase Cruz refers to (“The idea that we should pretend we don’t see racism is connected with the idea that we should pretend we don’t see color. It’s called color blindness”) again in an aside in a chapter on the disparity in standardized testing. While standardized testing may appear equal on the surface, the authors argue, not all schools and students have the same resources — meaning rewarding schools based on test results magnifies existing inequalities. The authors also criticized the idea that the way to tackle racism in education was to not focus on it, which is when they pause to tackle the idea of ”color blindness.”
The point the authors are making in that passage is that ignoring differences in skin color is tantamount to ignoring racism. Only by acknowledging those differences in advance, they argue in the book, can society begin to eliminate the problem.