A few weeks ago, in the midst of Linsanity and some of its racist reactions, journalist Grace Hwang of Hapamama.com asked if I thought racism was taken more seriously than sexism.
I was still thinking about how best to answer her when Rush Limbaugh spent three days vomiting all over Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke.

Well, I guess there was my answer.

Some of the racist taunts that hit Jeremy Lin might possibly be able to be explained as accidental, insensitivity, ignorance, (barely), but Limbaugh’s incredible remarks (coupled with all the transvaginal ultrasound legislation by white male congressmen and the all-male testimony on birth control that brought about Limbaugh’s remarks in the first place) left me sputtering.

What is wrong with these people?

I was gratified that many sponsors pulled advertising from Rush Limbaugh’s program, and I especially appreciated the statement from David Friend, CEO of Carbonite, “No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency.”

When President Obama called Miss Fluke to express his disappointment in how she had been treated, I felt like that call was for me, too.

At my children’s elementary school, the values taught are posted all over the school with pride: respect, trustworthiness, truthfulness, active listening, no put-downs, personal best. The children are all so adorably earnest as they actively try to embody these values, to become better people, to become better friends to one another.

What is it that went so terribly wrong for Limbaugh and some of these Congressmen between elementary school and adulthood?

Before I could think too deeply on that question, I happened to go to the public library. On the “New Books” shelf, I grabbed a bunch of books for Little Brother at random. Since it was the end of February (African American History Month) and the beginning of March (Women’s History Month and National Reading Month), I found some real treasures that taught me something and gave me hope that the kids are going to be alright.

In “Shoebox Sam,” by Mary Brigid Barrett and illustrated by Frank Morrison, two African American children, Delia and Jesse, spend their Saturdays helping out at Shoebox Sam’s store, “where old shoes become like new again and anyone in need finds a friend.” Among the many customers who come in that day are two hungry, possibly homeless, people who are allowed to eat as many doughnuts and sandwiches as they need, for whom “specials of the day” are instantly created, and who are treated with dignity and respect. I did not even know that such a thing as used shoe stores existed, but I learned how we can all afford to be more kind and generous, even with our most prized possessions.

In “Jazz Age Josephine,” by Jonah Winter and Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, we see how incredibly poor Josephine Baker was as a child, the racism she faced during her career, the choice she made to move to France where she could dance and be treated with respect, and her involvement in the American civil rights movement.

In “Grace for President,” by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, an African American girl named Grace is shocked to discover that there has never been a girl President of the United States. When her teacher holds a mock election, she decides to run. A popular boy from another class runs against her on the slogan, “the best MAN for the job.” Grace campaigns like mad while the boy candidate is unworried because he has already calculated that the boy delegates have more electoral votes than the girls. As the children vote, state by state, the vote is evenly split down gender lines, until the very last state—represented by a boy—casts his votes…for the best person for the job.

Dignity. Respect. Hard work. Courage. Truth. Honesty. This is what we teach our children every day. I fear that I am incredibly naïve, but we need more stories like these to forestall continuing racism and sexism.

Note: For more inspiration during National Reading Month, check out Argentinean artist Raul Lemesoff’s “Weapon of Mass Instruction”

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is a contributor for New America Media’s Ethnoblog, Chicagoistheworld.org, PacificCitizen.org, and InCultureParent.com. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her Web site at franceskaihwawang.com, her blog at franceskaihwawang.blogspot.com, and she can be reached at fkwang888@gmail.com.