Reflecting Upon Racist “Watermelon” Remarks At The National Book Awards

Jacqueline WoodsonNovember 26, 2014 – Segment 3

We reflect upon last week’s National Book Award ceremonies, where Daniel Handler, author of the Lemony Snicket books, made the following racist remarks when introducing Jackie Woodson, who won the award for Young People’s Literature for her book Brown Girl:

I told you! I told Jackie she was going to win. And I said that if she won, I would tell all of you something I learned this summer, which is that Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind.

And I said you have to put that in a book. And she said, “you put that in a book.” And I said “I am only writing a book about a black girl who is allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornell West, Toni Morrison, and Barack Obama saying, ‘This guy’s okay. This guy’s fine.'”

We hear from: Dr. Charles Johnson, National Book Award-winning novelist and scholar whose most recent book is called Taming the Ox; Tonya Bolden, award-winning author of over 20 books for young readers and adults, whose newest book is Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America; and Dr. George Yancy, Professor of Philosophy at Duquesne University who recently edited a book entitled White Self-Criticality beyond Anti-Racism: How Does It Feel to Be a White Problem?