Does it matter that little Tony is black?

Use this forum to discuss the July 2018 Book of the Month "Toni the Superhero" by R.D. Base
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cristinaro
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Does it matter that little Tony is black?

Post by cristinaro » 01 Jul 2018, 05:33

Tony is a jovial little black kid always with a broad smile on his face. He is engaged in the typical activities of a kid his age.

Is he meant to defy the superhero stereotype especially since he does not seem to be doing anything extraordinary?
Did you feel the book undermines the myth of the white superhero and carries a message of inter-racial tolerance?

My fear is the message could be exactly the opposite. Little black kids can only do ordinary things like helping their mother, sweeping the floor or dusting the furniture. The superpowers still belong to the little white kids. I am wondering if Tony will actually have some superpowers in the next books of the series. What do you think?
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Post by Miriam Molina » 01 Jul 2018, 06:29

Some reviews of this book are actually comparing Toni to T'Challa of Black Panther fame. I say it's about time we shatter the myth of white superheroes.

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Post by bookowlie » 01 Jul 2018, 08:16

Christinaro - Interesting question! I didn't view it as black kids can only do ordinary things while the superpowers belong to the white kids. For me, the story showed that important people (superheroes) still do ordinary activities and chores like everyone else.
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Post by Bookmermaid » 01 Jul 2018, 08:22

cristinaro wrote:
01 Jul 2018, 05:33
Tony is a jovial little black kid always with a broad smile on his face. He is engaged in the typical activities of a kid his age.

Is he meant to defy the superhero stereotype especially since he does not seem to be doing anything extraordinary?
Did you feel the book undermines the myth of the white superhero and carries a message of inter-racial tolerance?

My fear is the message could be exactly the opposite. Little black kids can only do ordinary things like helping their mother, sweeping the floor or dusting the furniture. The superpowers still belong to the little white kids. I am wondering if Tony will actually have some superpowers in the next books of the series. What do you think?
I would also be worried if this was the message that the book ingrained in the minds of black children. It's amazing how complicated a simple story can become.

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Post by AmySmiles » 01 Jul 2018, 09:29

It didn't come across to me that way. I was taking it to mean that superheroes still have to do everyday chores. I guess I thought it was just showing kids that just because you may have special talents doesn't mean you no longer participate in every day duties.
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Post by gen_g » 01 Jul 2018, 10:30

This is an interesting question! However, I feel like this is now up to the parents/people reading the book to the child in question. The adult is the one responsible for the education of the younger masses, aka creating a colourblind society, and it is important to start it young. In other words, the adult has to let the child know that doing your daily chores is also a form of superhero activity, and it is not in any form inferior to other children with "actual superhero powers" (whether white or not).

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Post by Bianka Walter » 01 Jul 2018, 10:30

The fact that Toni is black didn't even register on my radar until this thread. So I obviously felt none of the above.
And I don't think it will for kids either. They just see another kid, it's us adults that notice the colour :)
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Post by cristinaro » 01 Jul 2018, 10:32

Miriam Molina wrote:
01 Jul 2018, 06:29
Some reviews of this book are actually comparing Toni to T'Challa of Black Panther fame. I say it's about time we shatter the myth of white superheroes.
I agree with you and I am thinking something similar happened in the case of T'Challa. I mean, the message is practically that black superheroes can save the day the same as white superheroes. In this case, the author could have even gone a step further and demolished the superhero myth on the whole.
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Post by cristinaro » 01 Jul 2018, 10:43

bookowlie wrote:
01 Jul 2018, 08:16
Christinaro - Interesting question! I didn't view it as black kids can only do ordinary things while the superpowers belong to the white kids. For me, the story showed that important people (superheroes) still do ordinary activities and chores like everyone else.
I also like the idea of showing children that superheroes are in fact similar to any other person in their daily lives or that you don't need to fly or save the world, to be a superhero. What I find confusing is this: will Tony actually have superpowers or not? If he has superpowers in the next books of the series, then I would have prefered him to do something extraordinary first and after that to have him engaged in ordinary activities. If he still does ordinary things in the next books, then the message would be children could feel like superheroes by simply enjoying their childhood and being happy.
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Post by cristinaro » 01 Jul 2018, 10:51

Bookmermaid wrote:
01 Jul 2018, 08:22
cristinaro wrote:
01 Jul 2018, 05:33
Tony is a jovial little black kid always with a broad smile on his face. He is engaged in the typical activities of a kid his age.

Is he meant to defy the superhero stereotype especially since he does not seem to be doing anything extraordinary?
Did you feel the book undermines the myth of the white superhero and carries a message of inter-racial tolerance?

My fear is the message could be exactly the opposite. Little black kids can only do ordinary things like helping their mother, sweeping the floor or dusting the furniture. The superpowers still belong to the little white kids. I am wondering if Tony will actually have some superpowers in the next books of the series. What do you think?
I would also be worried if this was the message that the book ingrained in the minds of black children. It's amazing how complicated a simple story can become.
You're right about that. At first I was quite taken by surprise with this book becoming BOTM. I was also amazed to discover how many positive reviews it received. I asked myself why this happened. I guess my questions reflect my confusion. I have studied child psychology for a while and maybe this is the reason why I have some reservations about this book in terms of organization and content.
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Post by cristinaro » 01 Jul 2018, 10:57

AmySmiles wrote:
01 Jul 2018, 09:29
It didn't come across to me that way. I was taking it to mean that superheroes still have to do everyday chores. I guess I thought it was just showing kids that just because you may have special talents doesn't mean you no longer participate in every day duties.
What would you think then? Do children still need superheroes in their lives? I know what you're saying is simply that the author wanted children to see the humane, relatable nature of superheroes. However, doesn't this mean making everything much too mundane and boring or is it simply a means of telling children they can be superheroes too?
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Post by cristinaro » 01 Jul 2018, 11:11

gen_g wrote:
01 Jul 2018, 10:30
This is an interesting question! However, I feel like this is now up to the parents/people reading the book to the child in question. The adult is the one responsible for the education of the younger masses, aka creating a colourblind society, and it is important to start it young. In other words, the adult has to let the child know that doing your daily chores is also a form of superhero activity, and it is not in any form inferior to other children with "actual superhero powers" (whether white or not).
You're right about the guiding roles of the adults and our implicit duty to create what you wonderfully call a "colourblind society." Changing the tone of our conversation, don't you think Tony already sets a very high standard? :) I mean, he seems to be liking an awful lot of things. I found myself thinking the author was pretty smart in choosing the pattern "to like" instead of "can". Imagine the following substitution: Tony can swim... read... dance..., etc. I think many readers have made this switch in their minds without being aware of it. It would make sense for Tony the superhero to be able to do a number of things rather than simply liking them.
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Post by cristinaro » 01 Jul 2018, 11:20

Bianka Walter wrote:
01 Jul 2018, 10:30
The fact that Toni is black didn't even register on my radar until this thread. So I obviously felt none of the above.
And I don't think it will for kids either. They just see another kid, it's us adults that notice the colour :)
I guess my cultural conditioning and scholar training are to be blamed for my observations. :) It could be interesting to show the book to a number of children and see what happens. We learn about racial distinctions in time, so it's a good idea to have a black superhero to make sure we get rid of any prejudice and misconceptions.
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Post by Bianka Walter » 01 Jul 2018, 11:31

cristinaro wrote:
01 Jul 2018, 11:20
Bianka Walter wrote:
01 Jul 2018, 10:30
The fact that Toni is black didn't even register on my radar until this thread. So I obviously felt none of the above.
And I don't think it will for kids either. They just see another kid, it's us adults that notice the colour :)
I guess my cultural conditioning and scholar training are to be blamed for my observations. :) It could be interesting to show the book to a number of children and see what happens. We learn about racial distinctions in time, so it's a good idea to have a black superhero to make sure we get rid of any prejudice and misconceptions.
I totally agree. And you're right, it would be interesting to see how many kids commented on Toni's colour - if any :)
Really interesting question though!
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Post by MsTri » 01 Jul 2018, 12:16

As a black parent - and now grandparent - it didn't even occur to me that such a comparison could be made. I was focused on the lesson that even superheroes do chores AND enjoy it... In my review, I did mention Tony's color, but I did so as a positive -
I like that the hero in question is a boy of color. In a genre where the superheros have historically been fair-skinned, it's important for little African-American children to see heroes who look like themselves. Since Black Panther is making a splash at the box office, the timing is on-point for our little hero.

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