So While At Work…

Context: I have been recently working at an enrichment learning program where I teach as well as create content for students ranging from Pre-K to 8th grade. Most of our clients are of Indian families, so it’s actually very uncommon to have a student who is White, Hispanic, Black, or Yellow. (I just realized how weird it feels to refer to non-Indian Asians as yellow!)

So class finishes and my student and I have about three minutes to kill, so he asks me if he can color. He’s a kindergartener going into first grade. He hasn’t had much of a chance to be fully integrated into America because of his lack of schooling thus far. I let him color, and he asked for crayons. I gave him what we had, and so he colored. Then he asked me,

“Mr. Tang, do you have the skin crayon?”

 Surprised, I just lifted one eyebrow and asked “What do you mean, Dhruv?” He continued to say that he wanted to find the skin-colored crayon. Then he found it. Peach. I laughed, thinking it wasn’t much, and asked him, “How is that the skin-color crayon? It’s not the color of your skin though, is it?” To which he replied: “My skin is skin-color and brown.”

Speechless. Not sure what to think about all this, and I’d like to hear someone else’s input.

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2 thoughts on “So While At Work…

  1. This automatically reminded me of the show Toddlers and Tiara’s on TLC. On this show like every girl gets spray tanned and they all say im going to go get brown. An African American girl went to get spray tanned and just like every white girl she also said I am going to get brown. Which shocked me because is she not already brown? I think that is similar to this. I felt like she also was seeing white as “skin colored.” I’m not sure how long the boy you taught has been in America, but my only thought is maybe because white people have been more dominant in the past. However when you go to other countries it may not really be this way. Though India was ruled by the British at one time, India has had their freedom for a while that I can’t imagine it having a impact on how a kindergartener thought. Whereas in America I think it is still obvious that the white skinned people were dominate.

  2. Wow. That resonates with me a lot, and I never really thought about that that way. It kind of reminds me of the question Dr. Jani asked at one point in one of our classes: “When did you realize what race you were, and that others around you were different?” I feel like white people maybe don’t think about this as much because they’re the majority; their skin color is the same as everyone else’s. But, at least in the case of this kid, those of minority status in the U.S. seem to have to grapple with the question from early on. You see self-portraits of black kids with brown crayoned skin, and probably Hispanic kids with tan-crayoned skin. I wonder how those kids came to first realize that their skin crayon wasn’t the same as their white friends’. I wonder if groupthink has ever convinced a minority child, at least for a little bit, that peach is what their skin color is. “These are my friends. I’m just like my friends. My friends’ skin crayon is peach, so mine should be peach, too.”

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