Regarding Jacqueline Woodson’s Coretta Scott King Author Award acceptance speech: I’m not at all certain why Ms. Woodson thought it important to label the young reporter who interviewed her at the Hudson Children’s Book Festival as “white.” She then follows this with a bit of mind-reading, saying she knew “the answer [the reporter] would give was not the answer I wanted to hear.” I have to say that this put-down seemed presumptuous at best, and, to be honest, cruel (considering that Ms. Woodson engineered the awkward situation with her own considered silence). If the interviewer had not been white, would Ms. Woodson have brought up her race? Would she have prejudged her in such a dismissive way? And how, I wonder, would Ms. Woodson feel if she was always described as a “black” writer, suggesting her books have a specific but limited audience?
Ms. Woodson is a fine writer and it’s possible that her words were meant to be playful, as if spoken to a knowing group of friends and supporters. But when printed in a national magazine, they come across as old-fashioned stereotyping.