October 11, 2020
Dear Dr. Campisi:
As you have now been made aware by several 8th grade parents, the remix book, “Stamped” by Jason Reynolds and adapted from Stamped from the Beginning by and with an introduction from Ibram X Kendi has been of major concern. Although I had heard the murmuring, I wanted to read this version myself and draw my own conclusions.
To say we are in a climate where race has been brought to the forefront is an understatement. Amidst the recent events that surrounded George Floyds death has created such. When it came to the horrific events of this man’s death and murder, I did not hear any race, nationality, creed or sex state that they did not vehemently disavow the behaviors of the four officers, who in fact represented a white, Hispanic, Asian and Black officer. I saw Americans united and in solidarity against what was done to George regardless of the facts surrounding the case that he was under the influence of drugs at the time. The actions of the knees on the back and neck by all four officers was considered unacceptable and America wanted justice.
Then, I listened to the media. I was perplexed that all they saw was the wrongdoing of the White officer. The narrative was that White officers target black men and that black men are in great danger by white officers. Well, I know many police officers and have them also in my family. I knew this was not true and that is when I read the statistics that further proved I was correct.
Well, the narrative did not stop here, it went on to tout ideas of, “Systematic Racism”, and, “White Privilege”. At 48 years old, it was the first I had heard of these terms as I am sure you also. Once again I was perplexed by this because not only have I traveled to many places in the world and have seen the lack of job and educational opportunity for those of color as opposed to the United States, but we have had a Black man serve in the highest position in our land as President of the United States for not one term but two. Does this sound like a Systemic racist country to you? We also currently have a woman of color running as vice president along with the multitude of minority senators, congressmen/women, CEO’s, business owners etc. I myself report to a well deserving black, woman COO and a Hispanic, woman founder. This country has made incredible strides against racism. Do I feel it exists today, yes, but not systemically and not Whites against Blacks. There is racism that is against many nationalities and faiths and I myself have faced racism being a white woman and was also turned away for a position due to Affirmative action.
Then the ideal of, “White Privilege”, literally privilege to whites due to the color of their skin began to infiltrate our media. I come from an Italian Immigrant family as does my husband. My father n law literally came here on the, “boat”, and traveled with the luggage since that was the ticket he could afford. When he arrived in America with only the suit on his back a day early than expected, he did not have the nickel to call his brother. He received no healthcare, welfare, food stamps or housing from the government. He had to be sponsored with a person to live and a job before arriving. Since he did not speak the language, he became a janitor and took English classes at night to learn. He then worked as a laborer. He loved America and the opportunity it gave him to work and prosper and he would often say, “God Bless America.” If he was alive today, I would love to hear his response if he felt, “privileged” for the color of his skin, as he bore the wrinkles and arthritic hands of years of hard labor. Yet, as you may know, the Italians also faced racism in the early 1900’s and were called, “Degos, Whops and Guineas (pigs). They lived in very poor tenements and were not accepted. They may not have been put into slavery in this country nor were they exterminated by the millions like the Jews. However, they faced much adversity and hate and for the most part, have overcome this through hard work and education. It is important to also add that this book does not mention the fact that American Indians and Blacks also owned slaves. It only depicts the White man.
While reading this book, the only comment I would agree wholeheartedly is that it is not a history book. I would go further to call it historical fiction. It is completely opinion based and not only mischaracterizes our founders like Thomas Jefferson and also Aristotle, and poets but falsifies history by injecting opinion as fact.
On page 4, Reynolds claims the worlds’ first racists were the Europeans and specifically names the Italians, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French and British. To lump these nationalities into one group as the founders of racism is racist! How do you think my son while reading such absurdities would think of his Italian heritage to be told Italians were one of the first racists?
He then has a small chapter titled, “Uplift Suasion”. A term made up by Ibram Kendi saying that the Abolitionists wanted the Blacks to, “act more White”, by having them learn Math, adopt trades, stay away from alcohol and cigarettes and learn grammatically correct English. This is completely false as the Abolitionists, the most famous of them Black, were great women and men who not only wanted to see the Blacks free but prosper and to obtain this through education and gaining meaningful employment. He then talks of, “Media Suasion”, using media/art to woo Whites. Again, lumping Whites into one category and saying they did not appreciate the Black artists and wanted them to conform to White art. If this were true, African American art would not have topped 2.2 billion in auction.
I can cite many much more that would prove my opinion that this book is an unnecessary, liberal racist account that I do not want my 13 year old impressionable son to read. I read your District Policy, 2530-Resource Materials. It states, “The Superintendent shall be responsible for the selection and maintenance of all resource materials, in accordance with the following standards.” I would like to specifically draw your attention to #2 – Wherever possible, materials will provide major opposing views on controversial issues so that pupils may develop under the guidance of critical reading and thinking. #4 – Materials will be factually accurate and of genuine literary or artistic value. As far as #2, I would like to know since this is a very controversial issue, is there an opposing book that these students will be reading? Something like Candace Owens, “Blackout”, where she describes Black America as being held down by the political left and does not believe in, “Systemic racism” or “White privilege”, as the reason why Blacks have been so called, “held back”. Reading two opposing views would give the students the ability to not only critically read and think but debate according to their views. #4 states that the materials will be factually accurate. As we know, this is not the case, this is an opinion based book and the author himself states this is not a history book.
I am asking that either a book showing an opposing view be read in conjunction with this book, “Stamped”, or my son be given the opportunity to read another choice of a book based on factually accurate information on this topic.
I kindly ask that you advise as to what the options are for parents that do not agree with the contents of this book.
Patricia R. Ferri