Thursday, February 10, 2011

If your skin color were a food, what would it be?

 Today in the 1/2 we read Karen Katz's beautifully illustrated book The Color of Us, and Mem Fox's also gorgeous Whoever You Are.  The themes of the book are simple and straightforward, perfect for 6 and 7 year olds, but unfortunately my own thinking leans toward the abstract, the complicated, and the gray.  The Color of Us gives kids an opportunity to talk out loud about skin color and the differences among us that they notice. Every hue is described in the text as a wonderful food -- every color is appreciated by Katz. We used it to talk about how we're all different, but the truth was that there are also a lot of similarities among some of us so it felt slightly contrived and made me wish that I lived in a more integrated place.  Whoever You Are expands on the theme, noting with lovely pictures that the ways we are different -- our use of land, our clothes, our language -- are important to us, but also "our hearts are the same, our smiles are the same, our hurts are the same, our blood is the same...".    I believe that race is both real and not real, a figment but with deep historical and contemporary meaning -- what sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant call a "necessary fiction" --- I'm struggling with how to translate that into 6 year old speak.  Regardless, the kids are so enthusiastic and called my hands peachy and books are wonderful gateways to all kinds of thinking, conversation, and connection.  Their "homework" is to learn more about where their ancestors immigrated from and how their particular skin color may come from.

I may have posted this earlier, but there is an interesting looking exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science on Race - it comes out of the American Anthropological Association's online project Understanding Race which is definitely fascinating to explore. Maybe someone will put tickets in the auction, or organize a field trip...