When I taught Kindergarten, I was always amazed at how untainted they were, so innocent and so full of love for anyone, even those who would hurt them.
Since they all came from different homes and had different experiences with the older kids once they reached school age, I could really see the influence adults had on the children. Even over a course of a few months, I saw change in personalities and even saw some that had their innocence stripped away with the exposure to the world.
When Black History Month came around each February, I hated talking to the kids about what had happened in our nation’s history. I KNOW it is very important, but for most, up until that time, they never noticed race. They knew their classmates were different colors, but it was never about race. I always felt I was the first dose of racism for them. I hated that! SO, instead of talking strictly about race, I would first introduce our differences in shades from a scientific point of view. I would explain how young the USA was and how we all came from different places around the globe. I would then explain how the sun is more extreme in some spots on the earth than it is others. From there, I would talk about how important it was to have natural skin protection, and it came in the form of melanin. They got it right away! Some would even say, so Marquis’s family came from a place that had a lot of sun so his skin has more melanin to keep him safe. I would nearly jump out of my seat with the feeling of satisfaction from their understanding. It was so simple to them.
Then, I would talk to them about MLK and how things were different for some people just because of the amount of melanin they had in their skin. All of them would think it was so silly for people to think others were different just because they had, “built in sunscreen”. The lighter kids even thought those that had more “built in sunscreen” were lucky because they didn’t have to wear as much sunscreen when they went outside. EXACTLY! I would say.
By introducing differences in a way that seems obvious, it made me feel like I wasn’t tainting their innocence, and they could be pure love for just a little bit longer.
Why can’t we see things this way? I am not color blind, I see that there are different shades, but I see that we are all human and some humans have more melanin than others. That’s it.
Written by: Dayna Mohan