The ABCs of Diversity: Helping Kids (and Ourselves!) Embrace Our Differences

Chalice. Jun. 2020. 208p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780827200937.
This guide for parents and educators intends to break down the language of diversity for social justice newcomers and the more experienced alike. There are some good ideas—in particular, the titular mnemonic for responding to difference by moving from “Automatic ABCs: Afraid, Back Away, Control” to “The ABCs of Intentional Engagement: Acknowledge, Be Present, Come Closer” to “The ABCs of a More Just Society: Access, Build, Cultivate.” Harris-Smith, a Black academic, and Helsel, a white pastor, trade off sections, sharing autobiographical anecdotes. This approach works well at times (illustrating concepts such as “being a good host and guest” as a metaphor for respectful cultural learning) but can distract from the sharing of key concepts from well-selected background readings. Occasionally the scope of topics is broader than the authors’ expertise. Gender and sex are briefly conflated, and the freighted term preferred pronouns is used once. Teachers are rightly encouraged to eschew superficial or exoticizing classroom activities in favor of lifelong learning and self-reflection. But strategies given for discussion or implementation are uneven. Sample scripts for asking strangers to explain their identities to one’s curious children are problematic. Readers will need to dig into the referenced works for more research-aligned ways to help youth of different ages engage with diversity and activism.
VERDICT An appealing invitation to learn more, with some powerful personal insights and strong synthesis of others’ work on diversity, equity, and inclusion; not a primary resource for curriculum or hands-on activities.

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