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Little House on the Racist Prairie

The Left is going after another great American treasure: Laura Ingalls Wilder and her beloved Little House on the Prairie collection. They cite the same old reasons -- racism, racism, and more racism.

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) says they are stripping Wilder’s name from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for children’s literature, an award Wilder was the first to receive. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award will now be known as the Children's Literature Legacy Award. The ALSC says the award "may no longer be consistent with the intention of the award named for her."

More likely, the modern radical ALSC is no longer consistent with the original intention of the ALSC.

The group explained:

The decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder's legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC's core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness.

In other words, the Little House books aren't politically correct.

Call them cranks. Laugh all you want. Consider the ALSC kooks -- but this latest effort to eradicate Laura Ingalls Wilder from our collective culture should scare you to death.

It means the modern Left isn't afraid of anything in their effort to fundamentally transform America. No target is too beloved by Americans to slow these gangsters down. No hill is too high for them to climb. No matter how many millions and millions of Americans love the Little House books and the 1970s TV series, the Left will target it -- and anything else that promotes core American values of self-reliance, independence, and endless possibilities.

The ALSC seeks to airbrush Wilder out of our American consciousness for two proffered justifications: the treatment of Indians in the books, and a minstrel show that appears in Little Town on the Prairie.

These are just pretexts, for reasons I’ll explain shortly.

The real reason the ALSC is trying to disappear the Little House books is because they articulate in so many beautiful and poetic ways why America is exceptional.   That’s what they really hate about the Little House series.

After hard lives in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and briefly in Kansas, Charles Ingalls took his family to De Smet, Dakota Territory, and lived in a claim shanty. Ingalls acquired land as part of the Homestead Act, one of the great pieces of legislation signed by Abraham Lincoln. It opened up the American West, as long as homesteaders were willing to work and develop the land.

I’ve stood on the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota. The endless unforgiving prairie speaks to the character of these Americans who settled the West.   It has an expanse and majesty like the ocean. You simply cannot believe they built a mechanized modern civilization here out of vast nothingness. But that's the American story.

Actual cottonwood trees planted by Charles Ingalls on Ingalls Homestead, DeSmet, South Dakota. (Author photo)

In De Smet, the Ingalls family built a life through hard work: growing wheat, working carpentry, and sewing shirts. It is the American story of success built on freedom and free enterprise, told over and over.

Wilder fills her books with the grandeur and ideals of America.

In the classic The Long Winter, Laura notices during the hot summer of 1880 that muskrats are building thicker walls on their mud homes. Charles Ingalls knows that means the coming winter will be long and severe. “Pa, how can the muskrats know?” Laura asked:

“I don’t know how they know,” Pa said. “But they do. God tells them, somehow, I suppose.”

“Then why doesn’t God tell us?” Laura wanted to know.

“Because,” said Pa, “we’re not animals. We’re humans, and, like it says in the Declaration of Independence, God created us free. That means we got to take care of ourselves.

Laura said faintly, “I thought God takes care of us.”

“He does,” Pa said, “so far as we do what’s right. And He gives us a conscience and brains to know what’s right. But He leaves it to us to do as we please. That’s the difference between us and everything else in creation.”

The rest of The Long Winter is about sacrifice and survival, and delayed gratification and fortitude. When the harsh winter of 1880-1881 finally breaks -- in April -- it is a story of celebration, and Christmas in springtime, of Pa and his fiddle singing a song:

Do you think that by sitting and sighing you’ll ever obtain all you want?/

It’s cowards alone that are crying and foolishly saying "I can’t!"/

It’s only by plodding and striving and laboring up the steep hill of life that you’ll ever be thriving/

Which you’ll do if you’ve only the will.

By now you should have a pretty good hunch about some of the real reasons that the ALSC doesn’t like the Little House books.

Go ahead, read them yourselves to understand fully why the ALSC seeks to airbrush them out of our culture and replace them with a very different genre of children's literature. You’ll discover Wilder's stories of failure and persistence in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. There is joy and family in Wisconsin’s Big Woods. And danger and disappointment in their little house in Kansas Indian territory.

Which brings us to the first pretext for the ALSC’s action -- the portrayal of Indians.

Caroline Ingalls was particularly afraid of Indians in the books, and any criticism of that fear demonstrates an ignorance of actual history.

The Great Sioux War between the United States and various Dakota tribes took place after the time period of Little House in the Big Woods and ended less than four years before the Ingalls family moved to the Dakota Territory. Abraham Lincoln mentioned in his second annual address some of the awful violence that characterized life on the Minnesota frontier just a decade before the Ingalls family moved to Walnut Grove, Minnesota:

Sioux Indians in Minnesota attacked the settlements in their vicinity with extreme ferocity, killing indiscriminately men, women, and children. This attack was wholly unexpected, and therefore no means of defense had been provided. It is estimated that not less than 800 persons were killed by the Indians.

Maybe the ALSC will disappear Abraham Lincoln next?

Whatever the merits and causes, these clashes were bloody civilizational battles between two cultures that blurred the line between combatants and innocents.  Women and children on both sides were killed.

You can hardly fault a mother in 1878 on the frontier being full of fear and animosity toward tribes that had massacred other American settlers. No doubt Indian mothers at the time had the same hatred of the United States Army. Had any of their daughters written books about the experience, that hatred would have been justifiably manifested.

In 2018, it’s comic that a brood of librarians take offense at the contemporary accounts of a pioneer mother on the American frontier 143 years earlier.

The final offense for the Wilder-haters is the minstrel show presented in Little Town on the Prairie. For entertainment, the folks in the Dakota town -- in 1882 -- conducted a minstrel show in blackface. No doubt Wilder’s account is historically accurate, as minstrel shows were a popular form of entertainment from Boston to New Orleans in 1882. Wilder enjoys no absolution, however. After all, to the crusaders at the ALSC, context is meaningless, contemporary values are irrelevant, and any practice of the past at odds with modern sensibilities must be eradicated.

Yet I can't help but notice that past practices that seem connected to present-day political disputes rank higher on the list for eradication.

After all, we don’t criticize Ellen Levine’s book about the Iroquois for failing to mention their hot treatment of Jean de Brébeuf or the other North American martyrs. Some past practices are more worthy of ALSC's attention, all depending on their applicability to modern politics. Instead of teaching about things that happened in the past -- like minstrel shows -- the ALSC prefers to airbrush away anything that does not suit their modern political agenda.

Minstrel shows were bad because they dehumanized people by viewing them solely through the lens of race. It's better to read about these very real events and understand why they were popular, and why they are not now -- which brings us nicely back to the organized ideological interests leading the attack on Wilder's great American books.

If Laura Ingalls Wilder is out, then who is in at the Association for Library Services to Children?

Professor Ebony Thomas. (U. of Pennsylvania photo)

Try Ebony Thomas (@Ebonyteach).

Thomas is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and appeared as a featured presenter at the most recent ALSC conference. She also occupies the out-of-touch fringe of race-obsessed academic culture. Her biography says she believes that language:

... must be reconsidered during this early 21st Century era of social change and societal redefinition. In her work, Dr. Thomas synthesizes postcolonial, critical, and critical race theory with data from her empirical research in classrooms to examine the ways that literature is positioned in schooling and society today. As children’s and young adult literary empires continue to dominate publishing and Hollywood, she strongly believes that the field has the potential to become one of the most effective postcolonial, critical, and activist projects of all.

Ebony seems to see the world mostly through the lens of race.

She might have fit in nicely in 1882 somewhere.

Also very much in at the ALSC is the author, poet, and ALSC conference headliner Margarita Engle. Some of Engle’s favorite topics are the joy and spirit of people in Cuba, oppression by Europeans, and of course, injustice:

If you are tempted to give the librarians the benefit of the doubt here, consider this ideologically saturated interview with Nina Lindsay, the head of the ALSC:

Nina Lindsay

Lindsay's ALSC is no longer about having books on library shelves to check out.  The ALSC is about politics. Lindsay wants librarians to be “media mentors” to direct “caregivers” on how they can “access and evaluate information.” Lindsay’s “Reading While White” blog pushes every demeaning, race-obsessed, deconstructive idea the nut-Left has invented recently -- microaggressions, unconscious racism, white guilt, the necessity of capitalizing the “W” in white, and on and on -- into the deepest, darkest fringe of dehumanizing racial psychosis.

In disappearing one of the most quintessentially American authors and the Little House series, Lindsay’s gang is off to a great start. A cursory visit to the pathologies in their online world make you wonder why they didn’t disappear Wilder’s Little House sooner. You better order copies for your kids and grandchildren before they get their way.