As I have stated before, I am very passionate about race relations. I will continue to implore you, as adult readers of my blog, to open your eyes to the culture around you, embracing our differences and similarities no matter where we come from or what the color of our skin might be. I may not have the chance in my lifetime to pass on this message to many children or teenagers, but I will have the chance to stand behind the authors that do.
In his children’s novel, Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli tackles tough subjects, one of which is race relations. Main character Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee finds himself crossing geographical and racial lines as he befriends the people that welcome him into their homes and lives, unlike the semi-foster family that he ran away from. He doesn’t find anything odd about having black friends and white friends and his endearing journey to find a home allows him to bring together these two groups of people. While Spinelli also addresses other issues, this is the one that stands out in my mind as the most important. Children today need to understand racial prejudice not just as something of the past, but a problem in the present. They need to see people their own age, even if those people are fictional characters, crossing racial boundaries and embracing people for who they are.
Jerry Spinelli leaves no apologies for intruding on our comfortable lives, and I will not either. I will be the first to admit that I sometimes struggle with racism. I will also be the first to admit that I am wrong in that, that I have work to do leaving prejudice behind.
by Jerry Spinelli
Originally published in 1990