As many readers know, the Youth Media Awards (YMAs) are like a less pretentious version of the Academy Awards for Young Adult and Children’s Literature. (By the way, the YMAs are coming very soon—click here and bookmark to watch live on Monday morning, January 11.) For as long as I’ve been paying attention to the YMAs, the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Awards have always been my own “Best Picture”; though announced near the beginning of the ceremony, everything else is, to me, a bit anticlimactic. So to say that I’m chuffed to serve on this year’s CSK book jury is a major understatement. But not only is it a thrill to be part of it, it’s also a privilege.
If you haven’t read it yet, now is the perfect time to go take a look at Amy Koester’s excellent guest post at Heavy Medal, The Privilege of Serving. In it, Koester writes, “When a reader does not recognize their own privilege, deep, honest discussion simply isn’t possible.” That really resonates with me as I read books for CSK, whose #1 criteria (as listed on the award website) is to “portray some aspect of the black experience, past, present, or future.” As a White male, do I know what exactly the “black experience” is? Honestly, no; how could I? All I can do is read all the eligible books, do some research, and focus on listening during our forthcoming awards discussion.
Nobody has more privilege than White men. And generally speaking, this privilege manifests itself in White men controlling discussions and talking far more than listening. Black women, on the other hand, too often find their words silenced (the term “intersectionality” was originally coined in reference to Black women and the way they were/still are discriminated against based on race AND gender). The CSK jury consists of seven members; four are Black women (the remaining two are White women). I’ve served on two award committees prior to this year, and I’m guessing my former Newbery and Sibert mates would agree that I’m good at talking. The listening part has not always come so easy.