My First Lesson On Skin Color (Or the Day I Learned I’m Black)

Kindergarten is fun. You play games and learn stuff. Our teacher taught us a song in sign language, then told us what it meant.

It was about all the cultures of the world, and how they thrived in their different regions. But these cultures started traveling to different places, leaving their homeland and starting anew elsewhere. The song was about how nice and peaceful the world would be if everyone just stayed in their homeland.

I went to kindergarten at a mostly black school with a white teacher.

One day some kids at recess wondered if it was OK for the black and white kids to play together, since they’d heard something about how those groups weren’t supposed to get along.

My teacher calmly explained, “No, no. That’s not true. You can all play together.”

For some reason, she asked, “OK, if you’re white raise your hand.”

I looked at my arm and thought it was closer to white than black, so I raised my hand. (Plus I was thoroughly confused because no skin color matched the white and black colors from my crayon box.)

That’s when my teacher informed me that I was black, not white. And then I raised my hands with the black kids.

So the world back when I was 5 was only black and white.


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