The past couple of weeks at ACH have really forced me to think about the kids that I’ve been working with and the backgrounds they come from. Without sharing too many details about the student, one of the younger kids in the art program seemed really fascinated with touching my arm while we were working on an art project one day. After asking her what was going on, she asked me: “are you a white person?” I had absolutely no idea what I should have responded, but I figured the best route would just be to tell her that I was. After another minute or so, she says; “I wish I was white too.” She caught me really off-guard, I wasn’t sure what I should say to her, so I just responded with: “Oh no, honey, don’t say that, you’re beautiful the way you are,” and after a moment, I was able to convince her to go back to the project we had been working on. I’m not sure if she thought about the conversation again after that, but I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
Reflecting back on the moment, I wished I had asked her why she said something like that. Was it something where she simply sees me as a role model and wants to be more like me? Was she thinking about all the white princesses and characters she sees and how I look like them? Or, at five years old, does she already partially understand the differences in how the world will treat her and I because of our skin tones? Is she already thinking about things like that, is she hearing her parents talk about it? It shocked me, because I never would have been thinking about anything like that as a child, and I didn’t think any five-year-old would be. Looking back, I wonder if there was a better way I should have responded, or if I should have tried to bring something or do a project of some sort with Miss Jill so that all of the girls in the art program could have done a project that helps them embrace who they are, without wanting to be like someone else.
It’s something that I don’t ever think I’ll stop thinking about, especially as I continue working with this student, and as I begin my own teaching career.