Let me get this straight: When we’re talking about “Our America,” it is supposed to be this America (below), or another America (like this)? When I was a kid, America’s diversity was an open secret that did not play out in many children’s books and history texts. The “others” among us were assimilated to a point, but how many of our families changed their names, suppressed their religions, denied their heritages?
The United States is more diverse than any other country in the world. But if you grew up before 1960 or so, you’d be hard-pressed to see those differences in children’s books, advertising and other mass media about our America.
When Dick and Jane conformity prevailed, American kids looked the same as those in Village of the Damned or the Eloi in The Time Machine. White, cute. Blemish-free. Perfection was the key to citizenship. Which means everyone else were freaks. Hippies did not call themselves freaks for nothing.
I found the book Our America while looking through some childhood storage containers. It’s not unique; there were others like it in the days before demography. Diversity manifests in hair color, clothing design, gender and age. But more than that was not American. It is hard for kids to understand the concept of a melting pot when all the flavor is boiled away.
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