Courtesy National Children’s Social Justice Library/
Courtesy National Children’s Social Justice Library/

In response to a viral video of a Harlem Park school teacher using the n-word and screaming at students, a California nonprofit has arranged to provide an infusion of racially conscious books for the school’s library.

As first reported by The Sun, The Conscious Kid National Children’s Social Justice Library pledged to donate all of its proceeds from Giving Tuesday to buying new books for the school. Katie Ishizuka, director of the San Diego-based organization, wrote on the group’s fundraising page that they offered to help after the awful viral video made the media rounds.

The cell phone footage showed an unidentified white teacher removing a student from class and then re-entering the room to jeers from her classroom. She eventually lost her temper and yelled at her black students, “You’re idiots! Get out of the drugs and get an education! Do you want to be a punk ass n***er who’s going to be shot?”

The teacher was promptly fired and her actions condemned by Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises, the teachers union and elected officials.

The whole scene left an impression on Ishizuka’s organization. After seeing the sad display, they reached out to see how they could help the school’s students. In response, Harlem Park Elementary/Middle School’s librarian told them the library’s shelves were lacking in books featuring people of color, and that they were unable to meet student demand for more children’s and fiction chapter books.

The nonprofit arranged to put 100 percent of its proceeds from Giving Tuesday, a post-Thanksgiving celebration of philanthropy and giving, to buying books that feature characters of color and promote self-esteem and positive messages about blackness.

The effort worked: Ishizuka said today by phone that they managed to raise $555 over the course of the day. With that money, they’ll be able to buy books for the school and ship them from San Diego to West Baltimore. She also noted that other organizations had reached out to donate their overall fund, as well as directly to the school.

Ishizuka said one her organization’s chief concerns after seeing the video was, in addition to the use of a racial epithet, the number of people commenting online trying to justify the teacher’s behavior or blame the children. “Discrimination has significant implications for mental health, school engagement and and life trajectory and we take that very seriously,” she said. “What we wanted to do was send a message to the students that racism is never justified and not to be normalized.”

Click here to read more about The Conscious Kid National Children’s Social Justice Library. The group’s efforts are one example of a national movement to promote diversity in children’s books.

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Katie Ishizuka’s name and reflect the actual total amount raised on Giving Tuesday.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...