kindergarten: where content of character is everything

humanaeproject(photos: Angélica Dass)

in the world of my 5 year old, people aren’t black or white. people have beige skin or brown skin . . . or sometimes pink. they are not defined by the color of their skin — nor are they judged by it.

my blonde-haired, blue-eyed, beige-skinned daughter was born into a world where the only president she knows is African American. she lives in a city that is 54% African American. she attends a public school here where 74% of the student body is African American and Hispanic. that there are kind and unkind people, geniuses and morons, leaders and losers with skin tones running the gamut and that their skin tone is utterly inconsequential to what they all have to offer is beyond obvious to her. it’s beautiful to see it in action.

last week, her class studied Martin Luther King, Jr. as a lead up to today’s day off in celebration of his life and accomplishments. on the way home in the car on Friday, she told me all about it. she described the Civil Rights icon as smart, good, nice and charming. but it was difficult to gather what she actually knew about what he did and what he stood for. as we pulled into our garage, she arrived a the part of the story where “this one police officer really didn’t like Martin.” she paused a moment and asked “Mommy, why didn’t some people like Martin Luther King?” and i wondered how i was going to explain this one in a way that she would understand that wouldn’t also completely freak her out.

“well, sweetie, not everyone believed in the same things he did,” i began.

“like what?” of course.

“well, he believed that all people should be treated the same — they should have the same rights and opportunities — no matter what color their skin is.” i think i did okay, i think i did okay . . .

“uh, duh, Mom.”

“i know, right? but a long time ago not everybody believed that people with beige skin and people with brown skin should be treated the same. and people with brown skin didn’t get to do all the same things people with beige skin did.”

“well, that’s just crazy, girl! CRAZY!

“i know, girl. totally crazy.” i got this. hit me with somethin’ else . . .

“Mommy, can i have dinner?”

and with the exception of one weird question about whether we were supposed to pray to Dr. King in the sky on his birthday (yeah, really.), that was pretty much our discussion about why we have today off of work and school.

in general, my feeling is that if everyone acted like 5 year olds, the world would be an absolutely unbearable place. but in this one respect, i sure wish people would channel their kindergarten selves way more often.

p.s. the unique photos above are part of the Humanæ Project, a series of images created by Brazilian photographer Angélica Dass, “who intends to deploy a chromatic range of the different human skin colors.” each subject’s skin tone is matched to a corresponding Pantone color, to create a metaphor about how much more complex we all are than simply black or white. it’s really beautiful, meaningful and thought-provoking work that i hope comes to Atlanta. go check it out.

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4 thoughts on “kindergarten: where content of character is everything

  1. Your post made me tear up a little bit (in a good way!). When your daughter is a little older, if you get a chance to go to Memphis, make a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum. It’s definitely not a lighthearted good time but OMG, what a place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • aww. too sweet! and yeah, definitely want to visit the museum in Memphis. there is one here in Atlanta, as well, that I still haven’t managed to get to! I worked on a video project for them a couple years ago and I could hardly handle being at the interviews, the stories are so moving.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kristen, this was a great read. My wife comes from multicultural background (Irish, Native American, and African American) and we teach our daughters that people are treated based off their individual character not skin color. Great job explaining that to your young daughter. And you are right, if we all acted and thought like 5 year olds the world would be a better place! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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