In Beans’ backpack today, instead of the usual packet of homework, was a sheet of paper outlining a project that’s due on Monday.
The project, in celebration of Black History Month, is to research and make a poster about an African American person to share with the class.
I wholeheartedly agree with and understand that all children should know and embrace differences and that black history is something every kid should learn. I’m in no way opposed to these lessons behind this project.
But this assignment made my heart sink a little because right now, if I asked Beans to describe some of his best friends, he would say (if he included skin color in the description at all) that they have brown skin and black hair, the same way he might say someone has skin like his (or a little bit lighter or a little bit darker) and messy blonde hair. He would not say, “They’re black.” It wouldn’t even occur to him lump someone into that broad category. Nor, for the record, do I think he would describe someone as “white.”
And I love that – that he accepts and loves and values all people without thinking about their race and that the only time he considers their skin color is when he’s trying to describe to his nosy mom which of the kids she sees in his classroom are the ones he likes to hang out with.
Again, for the record, I do talk with him about different kinds of people, cultures, lifestyles, and maybe I should have already talked with him about race … should I have? Is that what you do? And if you do, how do you?
(OT: For a while after I talked with him about homelessness, he worried that every person he saw on the street – even the ones running in the latest Nikes and designer sweat-wicking threads, iPods strapped to their arms – had no home to go to and wanted to give them blankets to keep them warm and food to eat. I love that about him, too. But that’s a whole ‘nother issue, right?)
Anyway, it’s not that I think a Black History Month lesson will make him think less or more of his brown friends – it’s just that I hate that he might start to think of them as being somehow different from him, or of them as different from him, if that makes any sense. I knew all along that it was only a matter of time before someone or something pointed out to him that society does make the race distinction. I just wish it weren’t so.
I guess what I’m saying is, wouldn’t it be great if kids never had to learn that there’s black and white? Wouldn’t it be great if we all thought of each other – if we had to consider skin color at all – as brown, tan, pink, yellow, olive etc.?