Good morning Austin:
As I was leaving the Capitol after an interview last night I checked my phone and there it was – an email from Wayne Bell, the king of cultural coloring books, the publisher of the best-selling U.S. Sen. “Ted Cruz” to the Future Comic Coloring Activity Book, with news of his brand new, hot-off-the-presses offering: To Thine Own Self Be True: An Adult Coloring Book about Rachel Dolezal.
Oh dear. Oh my.
As someone who wrote about race for nearly two decades, I was, naturally, especially intrigued, bothered and bewildered by the Dolezal story. But it wasn’t my story, and I kind of felt that however drawn to the story I was, Dolezal was reaping more attention, ridicule and scorn than any human being who hasn’t actually killed anyone or announced she is running for president should have to endure.
But then Wayne Bell of Really Big Coloring Books Inc. in St. Louis sent me the email, I looked at the coloring book, and, well, I’m a reporter.
So here it is, along with some excerpts from a conversation I had last night with Bell.
FR: I was kind of feeling sorry for her because I don’t know how much one person can stand. Do you think the coloring book is going to push her over the edge?
WB: We actually talked about that for the last two or three days before we released the book this evening. And we talked to a lot of parents and they’re our gauge for everything – people who actually have children of color – and we asked parents what they thought. And I’ll tell you right now, 90 percent of the parents we talked to, they may feel sorry for her, but they feel more anger and distrust and disbelief in her than they do in feeling sorry for her.
She took money pretending to be black, she affected people’s lives pretending to be black. Very negative.
People call her a con woman, a big white liar.
We’re not going after her as a human being, as a person. We’re going after her actions.
“To thine own self be true.” One person said that in the office and people were like, “that’s the deal, that’s the deal, that’s the deal.”
And that’s when we decided, we’re going to go ahead and make this book and get it out there and teach children that if you’re honest about yourself, you learn who you are, you love yourself, you build your identity, you accept the differences of others, then you learn about your heritage and you figure out who you are as a human being. If you lie about yourself you lose self-esteem, you hurt other people, you live a lie, you have no real identity and you lose what makes you unique as a person if you’re a big liar.
And most people call her much worse than a big liar, because at the end of the day, when she goes to bed at night, all her makeup can come off, her hair can be straightened and she understands that she is a white woman.
But she was pretending to be a black woman and that’s really odd. A lot of people just don’t understand it, but it surely does affect them emotionally.
WB: We’re looking at how we can affect kids in a positive manner, is the whole position of the book. We’re trying to take something that’s not only strange and weird but something that’s very negative to a lot of people, trying to show that as an example of what not to do when you grow up, and turn a very negative thing into something positive for other people, and that’s the whole gist of the book.
FR: Where did the idea originate?
WB: The idea came about when I was sitting down watching TV and I thought, this is a human being that has just got such a negative impact on the people around her in the end and no matter what her mission was and no matter what her deal was, she got majorly confused somewhere. And I thought there was going to be a coloring book on this one sooner or later, and that’s when we started asking people about it, talking to people about it, ’cause I can just sense if there actually needs to be a book on one of these cultural events.
FR: You call it an adult coloring book.
WB: Yes, this is an adult coloring book. We don’t want kids in kindergarten to grab this coloring book and run to school with it and say, “Hey, look what I’ve got, ‘To Thine Own Self Be True.'” This is a book that grandparents and parents and older siblings or brothers and sisters can use, and lot of adults will buy this book and just keep it.
FR: Why would an adult buy a coloring book?
WB: They could use it themselves. There’s crossword puzzles in it, there’s mazes, there’s all kinds of activities. They could also use it with children – it’s about life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and to teach children words like “inclusion,” or “truth,” or “pride” or “love” or “self-love,” or “identity” or “acceptance.” It talks about freedom. It talks about justice and there’s exercises here for children – “What do you like about yourself.”
You could use this in a classroom.
WB: And then there’s also the page, “What would say to Rachel Dolezal if you could speak to her?” What do you think her pretending to be a person of color that she is not? She’s not black, she pretended to be black. She was lying. She’s not black. So what would you say to her?
It’s a very engaging little book.
WB: A lot of adults will grab this book and just hang onto it. It’s a novelty item, but there are a lot of great lessons inside the books for kids. It teaches kids what to do and what not to do. It teaches them, do not lie, it will hurt you, it will hurt other people, it will destroy your identity.
It’s a terrible thing to do. That’s the whole basis of this book is that this woman has upset the whole country in her lying ways.
We didn’t do a ton of research on Dolezal, but we did quite a bit. We read what other people had to say about her and I listened to several interviews on her. We listened to what professionals said about her, and this woman even confuses the professionals.
Here is the centerfold from the Dolezal coloring book.
Is it me or does the boy with the “Self Love” shirt in the panel on the left look like a young Ted Cruz?
It was, as I mentioned, the Ted Cruz coloring book that first connected me with Bell in December 2013.
FR: How’s the Ted Cruz book doing?
WB: I would say the Ted Cruz book is doing fantastic. Super duper. That book’s a hot book. It’s been hot for a long time. It stayed at number one on Amazon.com, on Children’s Coloring Activity Books, I think for probably very close to 20 weeks. I don’t think that book’s going to disappear anytime soon.
It outsold Bill O’Reilly for a while.
The Ted Cruz book now comes with a 14-page supplement on how Ted Cruz is going to save America.
WB: The Cruz book was named the top political gift of 2013 by Chuck Todd on NBC on Meet the Press.
Ted Cruz has got an extremely large following of people, and I think a lot of the Huffington Post people bought it too because they couldn’t believe it actually existed.