Star Wars: The High Republic author Justina Ireland has expressed her extreme displeasure with the cover to the latest issue of School Library Journal, as she believes the cover “centers whiteness” and has “blackface implications.”
Illustrated by artist Sonia Sánchez for the February Issue of School Library Journal, the cover in question depicts a young white student holding a book featuring an ambiguous non-white person over half of their face, a visual attempt to communicate the message of the issue’s spotlight argument that “white children need diverse books.”
“In majority-white communities, educators say, it’s crucial that diverse books are put in front of white children,” claims author Drew Himmelstein in the issue’s featured article. ”Books can dispel stereotypes and offer a more balanced view of the world to kids who grow up in homogeneous environments.”
However, despite the pro-critical social justice theory message centered in Himmelstein’s article, Ireland took heavy issue with the cover, taking to her personal Twitter account to speak out against what she believed was an offensive visual.
“I just saw the @sljournal cover and I don’t know how much more we can talk about diversity and the importance of representation when there are some in the industry who can’t even grasp the 101 level of the conversation,” wrote Ireland. “That cover is a disgrace”.
Ireland then explained that she took issue with the cover because it “not only centers whiteness (diverse books are important because they are beneficial to white readers! Screw kids of color) but it does so during Black history month,” adding that “This is straight clownery. Great job, SLJ.”
“I’m not going to even go into the Blackface implications of this cover. That the cover marginalizes characters of color all while purporting to uplift them is just so mind boggling,” she continued. “Unless, of course, you remember there are industry professionals waiting out diversity.”
The Star Wars author concluded her thoughts on the cover by claiming to her audience that “there are people at all levels and in all spaces who are basically just waiting for it to be safe to go back to business as usual.”
“They’ll make the minimum effort to keep from being yelled at by ‘angry’ PoC but have no intention of changing anything,” Ireland added. “Ergo, covers like this.”
Regardless of one’s personal views on critical social justice theory, it’s important to note that Ireland’s argument is both disingenuous and contradictory.
While Ireland is correct in her observation that the cover “centers whiteness,” it is because the topic at hand is specifically how white students could benefit from diverse books, a discussion that has been regularly and ironically promoted by critical social justice adherents for years.
One must ask (again focusing only on the argumentative logic, not on whether or not one agrees with critical social justice theory itself), if white students are not to be centered in these discussions, how would proponents of such ideas get their ideas across to their intended audience?
In essence, Ireland has presented her opponents with a ‘Racism Catch-22,’ as it now appears that both specifically speaking to white students about diversity and refusing to discuss the topic with them can be considered racist.
As of writing, the School Library Journal does not appear to have publicly responded to Ireland’s comments.
These comments are not out of the ordinary for Ireland. She has routinely taken issue with white men and white people in general as evidenced by her own tweets.
What do you make of Ireland’s criticisms? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!