'White supremacy' trigger warnings slapped on Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland by UK university

A university library in the UK has placed trigger warnings for "white supremacy" on classic children's books such as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland.

York St John University warned readers that historical children's stories written in the 19th and early 20th centuries under their Rees-Williams collection are likely to contain "offensive" examples of "white supremacy" and "colonialist narratives."

An online disclaimer for the collection, entitled "Content warning and position statement" says: “Within the 150 years of children’s writing which is represented in the collection, there is a widespread occurrence of colonialist narratives which centre white supremacy, and racist and orientalist methods of both fictional and historical storytelling."

“As such," it continues, "it is possible, if not likely, that items consulted from the collection will include language and visual imagery which is racist, and many people may find their contents upsetting and offensive.”

"As custodians of historical documents, it is our duty to recognise their historic and current power in the marginalisation of the peoples who are subjects within them, and examine why we continue to preserve and house such items when their ability to cause damage endures. Here at York St John University, we unequivocally reject the stereotypes and offensive narratives which are contained within these documents."

However, it says that "We are also committed to preserving and providing access to the evidence of the racist marginalisation and stereotyping of peoples through children’s literature during this time period.

“To do so requires continuous learning, reflection and consultation on how such a collection should be managed, and as such we welcome conversation about and research into the collection.”

The Telegraph points to references of "savages" inhabiting Neverland in JM Barrie's Peter Pan.

The outlet also said that "Some academics have tentatively suggested that the hookah-smoking caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is an orientalist depiction, which uses stereotypes of an exotic East."

A spokesman for the university said: “As custodians of the Rees-Williams Collection, we have a responsibility to both provide access to historic books, and to inform our students and other users about content in our institutional archives and special collections which many would find offensive and outdated. This guidance has been in place since 2019 and aligns with our ongoing commitment to challenging racism, as a Race Equality Charter Bronze award holder.”

Image: Title: york st john university


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