Kristen Bell’s new children’s book is a variation on ‘I don’t see color’

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Kristen Bell has a new children’s book out called The World Needs More Purple People. Her message tells kids to be “purple people,” which she presents as this trans-racial concept that teaches children to look for similarities before differences. People are pointing out that it sounds just like white people dismissing any criticism of racism by saying “I don’t see color” and “I don’t care if you’re purple.” It’s an antiquated and harmful way of looking at race and many people are saying it makes kids feel like they have to fit in and be small instead of being themselves. It basically tells them to stay positive and turn themselves into a “purple person.” One of the lines toward the end is “purple people come in every color you can dream of, and every size you can think of. The only way to be purple is just be you.” It sounds like she’s saying “We’re all the same honey. Let’s all just be positive and not pay attention to our differences.” This may be well-intentioned, but it’s tone deaf, misses the point and tries to erase people.

You can see the book being read on YouTube here. The Independent has a good breakdown of the criticism of this book:

Actor Kristen Bell has been accused of writing a children’s book glorifying “colourblindness” rather than acknowledging the differing life experiences of people of different races.

The Good Place star’s book, The World Needs More Purple People, is about a “purple person” who “looks for similarities before differences”.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Bell said: “The world loves debate, I do, and debate talks about differences. It’s layering difference upon difference upon difference, ‘I think this’, ‘no, you should think this’, it’s just constantly pointing out divisive narratives.

“Our kids are absorbing all of that and maybe we needed a bit of a road map to show them that it’s actually great to start with similarities first.”

She continued: “Hopefully that will allow kids to have a little bit more of a social identity and be able to see similarities and through that have their mind opened by some people who they thought were different.”

However, her comments caused division on social media, as many people accused the actor of promoting “colourblindness” rather than acknowledging that people of different races have very different life experiences.

“’I don’t see colour’, the book,” one Twitter user joked, while another added: “‘I don’t see colour’ people need to go, be quiet, listen to actual people’s experiences, read some educational pieces instead of writing about nonsense.”

“Colourblindness isn’t the path forward,” a third person responded. “I know she probably means well but she needs to get better people on her team who can give her a dose of reality.”

Some people pointed out the similarities between the purple character and the phrase “I don’t care if you’re black, white, purple” which is often used to shut down conversations about racism, with one critic writing: “The world does not need more fictional purple characters. We already have Barney and Tinky Winky.”

“You guys will do everything but teach your kids about racism against actual Black and brown people, because reality makes you ‘uncomfortable,’” they continued, while another echoed: “Just…use actual races instead???”

[From Independent.co.uk]

I would ask how this book happened but we know how white publishing is, and who makes the decisions in that industry. Representation matters and there are so few Black leads and secondary characters in children’s literature. Plus it’s so much harder for Black authors to get published, and established best-selling Black authors get lower advances than novice white writers. (Also credit to Pixie Carlisle’s video.) This book was in the works before George Floyd’s murder, I saw her promoting it weeks ago and it came out earlier this month. First of all, it never should have been published, but someone at Random House should have at least pulled it when they realized the optics at this time!

Oh and Kristen also plays a biracial character on the Apple+ cartoon Central Park, by the creator of Bobs Burgers, Loren Bouchard. When trying to explain casting Kristen, Bouchard said that he always saw Kristen in the lead role, and he always saw the lead character as biracial. Then he went on to say that at least he hired women. (Of course he talked around it and that’s my interpretation of his word salad.) I wonder if Kristen “takes responsibility” for that. I also wonder how and if she’s going to address the criticism of this book. She’s tried to be an ally and I wonder if she’ll admit that this wasn’t the way to do it.

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55 Responses to “Kristen Bell’s new children’s book is a variation on ‘I don’t see color’”

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  1. Nev says:

    She’s worst than goop. Who I LIKE. C’mon enough from her.

    • Winnie says:

      She’s incredibly cringe but she’s no Goop. I think she is very much a product of my generation that were taught not to see color. That’s how the anti-racism courses were focused when I was a kid. You are taught to acknowledge a persons color but not treat them differently because of it. To treat people in a colorblind fashion. It was all the rage.

      I’m not sure I want to condemn her since I really think she just internalized this message and thought she was doing a good thing. She wanted to do something positive so there is that. It was poorly executed no doubt!

      • greenmonster says:

        It might have been all the rage in the 90s (I was a teenager then, I remember that sentiment) but that time is long gone and we have been told over and over again, that ‘I don’t see color’ is not the way to go. KB can unlearn the internalized message if she would be listening to people.

      • Frida_K says:

        It’s a form of cultural genocide to demand that non-white people go along with the story of “I don’t see color.” Maybe she was taught that this was a good thing when she was younger, but the responses on twitter should have, at the very least, given her a pause.

        I’m not interested in listening to some whiny-mommy-voiced white woman tell me that we need to try to look for similarities and ignore differences just like her Barney-esque purple character.

        Maybe those of us who are not of her same race or ethnicity, or culture, and/or economic class don’t want to be homogenous. Maybe we have no interest in holding hands and saying “we all bleed the same color” and other like.

        She needs to sit down and be silent. She’s not the teacher here. If she has any sense of decency, she will be grateful to take the opportunity to be a silent, respectful learner. But no, she is not the teacher here.

        She’s a budget Goop, I think so.

      • Winnie says:

        Oh I totally agree! I know better now and so should she. I am just saying I won’t fault the effort. She meant well but she is not respecting that color should be respected and acknowledged rather than ignored.

  2. Sequinedheart says:

    She’s becoming quite insufferable.

    • Snazzy says:

      I’ve never seen her in anything but I read about her here and for some reason I never really liked her. My instinct is confirmed. She’s another privileged moron thirsting for attention.

  3. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    A part of me enjoys white smug vs truth. Let the avalanche begin.

  4. Athyrmose says:

    Will never forgive her for lecturing people on Twitter during Ferguson protests. Black lives > property.

  5. Isabel says:

    Red + blue = purple. Impossible to say for sure without having read it, but I’m guessing this book is supposed to be about getting over divisiveness in politics, not about race.

    • Polly says:

      Yes, that’s how I interpreted it when I read it this weekend.

    • Mtec says:

      I just gotta point out that “purple” (in Spanish: “Morado/Morao”) is an incredibly racist term I grew up hearing in the Dominican Republic. Colourism is a huge issue there, and racist people there use it to describe people with dark-skin, mostly who they assume are Haitian. It’s awful, it’s racist, i’ve always hated it, and now this tone-death White woman is teaching kids that’s a good term to use. I 100% believe ofc Kristin isn’t aware it’s a racist term—but if she’s gonna write a kids book on diversity and freaking people’s skin colour. she should have consulted different POC’s POVs on that first.

  6. Polly says:

    My mom gave this book to my kids this weekend. I read it to them without pre-clearing it and two pages deep I was like, “Honey, no.” My husband’s eyebrows were raised to the ceiling. This book is . . . just no. I cosign all of the problematic aspects pointed out above. My mom is a 60s era liberal white lady who means well and she clearly didn’t catch any of this.

    • Emily Gilmore says:

      My 2nd grader read ‘let’s talk about race’ by julius Lester in her class and it seemed to be pretty good. The assignment following was to discuss who you are.

  7. Slowsnow says:

    We need to look for similarities?!?!

    I just… wow dude. Not even two brain cells left in this closeted Karen.

  8. Nanny to the Rescue says:

    How dare anyone imply Kirsten’s work is problematic!

    She told us in that b&w video with slow piano music how unracist she is! What else must this woman do!?!

  9. Case says:

    Speaking as someone with a disability, I grew up with kids whose parents taught them to not say anything to me about my obvious differences, to not treat me any differently. I have best friends now, in my late 20s, who have never asked me what condition I have. Part of that is nice — I want to be treated like everyone else, obviously, and not be singled out for having a disability. At the same time…looking for similarities and not differences can be hurtful. It can mean that my friends ask me to walk two miles to a restaurant in the city without thinking to ask if I need a rest, or not worrying that I might slip more easily than them on cobblestone when it rains, or completely failing to recognize that my life has been pretty darn tough just because I don’t talk about my life in that way.

    So yeah. My perspective is of a white girl with a disability, and is obviously totally different from people of different races, abilities, etc. But looking for the similarities hurts more than it helps. It’s important to recognize people’s differences, to acknowledge them, and to try to learn more about their experiences rather than pretend they don’t exist.

    • Slowsnow says:

      I appreciate that on an emotional and philosophical level we have more in common that what separates us – we can communicate and talk and learn and evolve.
      Buuuuuuuttttttt even between a man and a woman, a trans and a cis person the physical experience of being you/myself is so different that ‘looking for similarities’ is a generic humanist (i.e abled white man) thing to say that is totally and utterly outdated.
      Thanks for sharing and articulating your thoughts so clearly.

  10. Nicole r says:

    So I have aspergers and I don’t understand this neurotypical idea that everyone has to be the same in order to respect them.
    It makes no logical sense. The argument is “everyone is just like you, so they deserve respect”?

  11. S808 says:

    she could’ve consulted a black author on how to approach the subject with children or could’ve just lent her connections to a black author but instead she came with…..this. these colorblind, “I don’t care if you’re *names every color in existence*” gestures are not going to work in 2020.

    • Paperclip says:

      +100000000

    • Dragon Wise says:

      This! Exactly this!

    • lucy2 says:

      Yes. And having some non-white people in the publishing group would help too, to stop stuff like this.

      I like Kristen, I think she generally has good intentions, but in an almost manic way seems to want her hand in so much right now and to be front and center of everything. It’s too much, and she needs to step back, listen, and amplify others. I’m sure she gets opportunities like this because she’s famous, but as you said, this would have been a great opportunity to say “I’d love to do this, but how about I co-author it with a WOC?”

  12. Mtec says:

    I don’t wanna judge her for her husband’s actions (she does pretty tone death things on her own) but since there’s not threads about him, Dax Sheppard, I wanna share this here:

    I was a fan of his podcast, Armchair Expert, but had to stop listening because the White Privilege and Sexism was REAL y’all.

    In 3 different episodes he kept excusing his White Privilege using the, again, tone death way of explaining that he can’t possibly have it because he and other White people he grew up with grew up poor etc etc. Time and time again he kept dismissing he had any privilege because of that.

    On top of it, he and Kristin employ a woman of Indian background, Monica Padman, initially to nanny their kids, she has since moved on to co-host the podcast with him, but what bothers me is that she sits there and constantly agrees with him on that! He has this way of arguing and manipulating the conversation that she just ends up agreeing with him.

    They also had Casey Affleck on the podcast and she and Dax excused him so much saying really sexist things!

    I don’t know Padman obviously, (nor how to articulate this well) but it seems to me, being in that environment with Bell and Sheppard, she has somehow adopted this weird sort of inferiority complex, or whatever the term is for people who adapt to survive and start sympathizing with the values of those in power—she still owes a lot of her work and $$ to Bell and Sheppard’s goodwill in keeping her around all their connections and opportunities, and it seriously bothers me seeing a WOC constantly agree with bullshit racist and sexist narratives in order to apease her bosses and problematic guests.

    Dax and Kristin are very different people, they don’t agree on many things, but somehow they are still able to create this tone-death, white-privileged atmosphere in their home and now they wanna use that and teach it to other people’s children. I get the intention, but boy are they getting it wrong. And have been for years.

    • Milkweed says:

      I totally agree with you! He often says racist and mysoginstic things on his podcast and the dynamic with Monica is very odd. I stopped listening as well for those reasons.

      • Mtec says:

        @Milkweed
        Yes! Thank you! Exactly what you said. And it wasn’t just the Casey Affleck episode, he says really sexist and misogynistic thins all the time on that podcast. And the casual/creepy way he has commented on Padman’s breast size many times (I think once in front of Kristen on the podcast too and she piled on—but that’s from memory so I could be misremembering). I guess she’s okay with him constantly crossing that line, but remember he’s technically her boss, and from an outsider perspective it just sounds awful and problematic.

        He also seems to carry a lot of “gay fear/panic” for someone who apparently identifies as Bisexual. Again, this is my interpretation/POV as a Bisexual person as myself…. He constantly talks about kissing guys, but it’s seems from his stories it’s just him and some of his male friends goofing around, and he makes sure everyone knows he would NEVER sleep with a man, while also becoming defensive and making sure we know how masculine he still wants us to see him, driving motorcycles, doing “manly” things, etc… By this i’m not saying every Bisexual person is the same, nor should want the same things. It’s just how defensive he gets about his attraction to men and anyone questioning his masculinity—So much about him bothers me. He’s such a problematic person.

    • lucy2 says:

      I had to stop listening to that as well, I think before he got to Casey Affleck but I don’t really remember. I enjoyed it at first, and I can appreciate that he’s open about a lot of stuff many men aren’t, but then I had enough. He both sides a lot of stuff to make himself sound like he gets along with everyone, and there’s definitely a lot of blindness to the white male privilege there.

    • GoogleIt says:

      I agree with so many things you are saying. Dax Shepard’s last movie that he wrote and directed was homophobic and misogynistic. He and Bell have been courting the Joe Rogan base with his podcast and their down market merch lines. She said recently that they are trash. Shepard recently had a speaker on his podcast talking about anti-racism. The comments from viewers are all like All Lives Matter, Antifa sucks, etc. You can’t court this demographic and then be surprised when you are called out for the things you say and do. These 2 people are worth tens of millions of dollars and are surrounded by sycophants who are dependent on their money by saying yes to their thoughts and ideas.

      Yes, you are right. Their relationship with with Padman seems problematic at best. Shepard talked one time about how he basically picked her out of a lineup of options to them. They are her meal ticket now so how can she be objective towards them?I

      • Mtec says:

        @Lucy2 & @Googleit
        Thank you for articulating this better than I could. I agree with y’all completely. I too used to like that he spoke openly about his sexuality and other things many men don’t, but after hearing him expand on that on his podcast just showed me there’s something off and wrong about how he expresses it at least.

        And @Googleit, I have not seen that movie you’re referring to, but honestly i’m not surprised. Nor am I surprised to hear that’s the majority of their fanbase.

        “Shepard talked one time about how he basically picked her out of a lineup of options to them.“—omfg that makes my blood boil. I think I remember them speaking on how she came to work for them, they knew she wanted to be an actor, yet instead of using their influence and connections to help her network, they made her Kristen’s assistant and children’s nanny, and now Dax’s “yes woman.” I think they have since given her some work on some of their projects. But the way Kristen says she met her and saw how competent and talented and professional she was and still only saw her worthy enough to be in positions of service to them—I mean 😑😑😑. I’m not saying being their nanny/assistant wasn’t beneficial for her, there was just something very off about how all that developed. I think even Kristen once said she resented Padman for a time after she wanted to stop being the nanny and pursue her career—even though she said they got past that on the podcast, it didn’t really sound like she was over it.

    • Prayer Warrior says:

      I felt like lower-middle class whilst I was raising my son. I have good credit, which is how we survived – we never got ahead. Still haven’t. LOTS of folks had more advantages than I. LOTS of folks had less advantages than I. Still and all, when my son was arrested for public drunkenness, I did not fear for his life. When my son drives to visit a friend, I do not fear for his life (other than through his own carelessness or bad decisions; I pray his carelessness would not take an innocent life). This is my white privilege, that neither my son or I are afraid for our lives when we are stopped by police. I used to say: I don`t see colour. I finally understood how that is my #whiteprivilege talking…it took longer than I like to admit to fully understand. At first I thought the conversation was political…when I realized she was talking about race…..I felt saddened to know how obviously we are still not getting it, even when we’re trying to be allies. I’m sorry.

      • Mtec says:

        @Prayer Warrior,
        Thanks for sharing that. Unfortunately it’s so part of our norm it is hard to fully grasp everything that White privilege affects in our every day.

        I think a helpful quote is the one(s) i’ve seen explaining that “White Privilege is not to say some White people haven’t struggled, but to say that the colour of their skin not the reason why they’ve struggled”—that’s me paraphrasing badly, so I hope I makes sense. Basically your skin colour, as a White person, is not the reason why you have faced hardships in your life, but for POCs it is.

        And obvs White privilege is way more complicated than that quote, but it does offer a simple way to explain it for more people to get it.

    • ArniePz says:

      This is exactly why I stopped listening as well.
      Plus the fact that he continues to have Sam Harris in who is completely racist.

      Monica really bothers me. With the Casey affect episode she stated she was not a feminist and said something along the lines of we need to trust more predators and not believe victims. It’s also really sad how she always talks about hating being Indian growing up. Plus on NUMEROUS episodes they have made jokes about Indian people owning dairy queens.

  13. Scarlett says:

    As someone who is mixed, Color AWARE not Color BLIND, there IS a difference Kristin Bell, ugh, just ugh!!

  14. Lyli says:

    How could she possibly think this was a good idea?

  15. MellyMel says:

    I liked her for years, but I swear the more she speaks or does…anything really, she’s just so annoying and insufferable. This “I don’t see color” bs is problematic and needs to stop being taught to kids.

  16. Mumbles says:

    Kids who were raised in the 1970s and 1980s were subject to a utopic view by well-meaning adults that color didn’t matter, we were a color-blind society. It did a lot of harm, not only to kids who innocently believed it, but by cynics who used it to argue that racism didn’t exist. When Colbert did the Colbert Report, he correctly mocked that hilariously (“I don’t see color. People tell me I’m white, and I believe them, because I’m a member of a restricted country club.”) I had hoped people had moved on from this, but this nitwit proves we have not.

  17. Dragon Wise says:

    She is bringing the most Karen energy to “doing the right thing.”

  18. Milkweed says:

    “Purple people come in every color you can dream of…”? That doesn’t make any sense.

  19. TheOriginalMia says:

    I hate that “I don’t see color” crap. You see color. You just want to ignore what happens to people a different color than you.

  20. GoogleIt says:

    It’s hard for me to believe there are people coming to her defense. She has shown time and time again that she is a con woman who has created a persona of the quirky, perky white woman who just wants everyone to get along. She worked on this book for months with a co-worker and a publishing team. No one would stand up to her and say she shouldn’t do it. She worked on Central Park for months and never once thought about giving the job up. She shills merch that is bogus. She told us she locks her kids in their rooms. Can you imagine if a POC admitted to doing that! They would be charged with child endangerment. She and her husband live in a bubble they created where they would not be challenged. There is no excusing her.

  21. Emily says:

    If there’s one thing I, as a white mother, have learned recently it’s that we should be explicitly teaching our kids to see differences. To recognize when people are being treated differently because of the way they look, and to call it out where we see it. That ignoring people’s race and saying “I don’t see color” is problematic (I knew that phrase was wrong, but now I hope I know more about why). Why would she do this? Did she ask one black person, or any person of color, about this? Where does she get off being some leader on parenting? Because she’s a rich white person with two kids? She needs to take several seats.

  22. GoogleIt says:

    And it’s been 3 days and she hasn’t attempted to right the situation. Instead she posted platitudes from her kid’s principal and turned off the comments. Talk about not wanting to hear what people are saying. If someone calls her out, she refuses to engage but she has said she and her husband get off on making other people feel uncomfortable. It’s no wonder she’s so far up Ellen’s ass.

  23. Jules says:

    She will do anything to stay in the spotlight

  24. GoogleIt says:

    One of the most thoughtful responses I saw on Twitter said something along the lines of teaching children to be empathetic and sympathetic to others should not start with thinking about similarities. We should be empathetic even (especially) when we don’t know our similarities.

  25. Ang says:

    This is how the publishing world deals with race in children’s books: they hire white writers to write the books, and white illustrators to paint poc children. This gives an appearance of diversity without any bipoc people involved. They need to hire bipoc authors and illustrators to represent our own – yes, we can do a better job of representing our own because we know our experiences. Colouring the characters brown does not make you anti-racist.

  26. Bucky says:

    I think she thinks she’s an authority on everything/everything for some reason, and I think her husband is the similar.

  27. HeyJude says:

    Two obligatory reminders about the problematic people mentioned here-

    Kristen and Dax are so tight with the McGraw family (Dr. Phil) that they actually launched a consumer product company called Hello Bello with them. You know the guy who exploits the mentally ill for profit and humiliation on TV without even still being a licensed Dr too.

    So clearly they have some poor judgement issues.

    And Loren Bouchard would say something like “at least he hired women” because on his biggest hit show, the aforementioned Bobs Burgers, MEN voice 2 of the only 3 women characters. He doesn’t just have a history of not hiring women, he went so far as to create women characters, had roles to handout and then hired men for them instead.

  28. anna says:

    ugh her husband claiming he had no privilege growing up made me livid . I was poor growing up too but my classmates didn’t treat me with disgust the way they did my Asian and black classmates.

  29. Oliviajoy1995 says:

    It always seems like she is trying so hard to be the “cool, woke” mom who always wants to relate to the “regular” mom’s, like she isn’t a celebrity and she’s “just like us” and it always comes off as desperate.