27 September 2008

Bright lights, brown tights

I work in an elementary school setting with students who need intense help with learning the English language. Most of them are from African countries they've fleed. They have lived in a refugee camp. They've experienced a lifestyle I only read about in books. They come to school with mismatched outfits; girls with colorful, printed, small, birkah-style hair coverings. Boys with pants too short and shoes too big. They fascinate me and I think they are beautiful. They are so much a part of my world that I don't differentiate skin color anymore. I forget when I did.

It becomes evident though that children are aware of skin color. It is innocent, charming and alarming.

I wore brown tights to school the other day, and three of my students , kindergarteners albeit, questioned me so intently.

"Ms. L, why are you black, but not your arms?" I was questioned.
I savor teaching moments like these when I can pull at my brown tights and tell them these are called "tights" and watch them as they look to their skin and back to my brown tight-laden legs, almost in disbelief, almost understanding, somewhere in the middle.

When do we start to see black instead of brown, and a color instead of beauty?


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