Friday, September 05, 2008

The Color of Our Character

It still happens. Skin color still matters to some people. In the town I used to teach in, there was an unwritten rule that if a white girl had ever dated a black boy, then she was off limits to all of the white boys. I as appalled when a fellow teacher shared this with me. I knew I was in a rural town, but couldn't believe that people really thought this was acceptable behavior.
You can learn a lot from a box of crayons. Some are sharp, pretty, and some are dull. Some have weird names and all are different colors but they all have to live in the same box.When I was a teacher, I had that quote on my wall. I don't remember where I first saw it, but I discussed it on the first day of class each year. When I turned away, the kids would laugh about who the "dull" crayons were and, always, one of the more extroverted girls would claim they were the "pretty" crayon.

I gave them a minute to get that silliness out of their systems and then re-read the quote to them. I explained that no matter which kind of crayon they were, the bright yellow crayon that was always a good friend, or the black crayon that liked to wear dark clothes and had lots of piercings, the red crayon that stood out among the crowd, or that particular shade of green called "mountain meadow" that was free of worries and didn't care what their peers thought, we all had to live and work together in the same box - my classroom.

Choose your friends by their character and your socks by their color. Because choosing our socks by their character doesn't make any sense.I also had this sign posted in my classroom. It got a lot of snickers as the kids tried to figure out what it meant. We lived in a very small town (approximate population 3,000) but still had a significant minority population in our school due to busing and local migrant farming. It was important to me, while my students were still in middle school, to make it clear that they should be friends with someone because of who that person is, not the color of their skin.

Did I change my student's world view? Did I suddenly flip switches in their brain and reprogram them to accept all of their peers? Probably not. But my students saw these two posters in the front of my room everyday and you can't read anything that often without a bit of it sinking in.

Submitted to Scribbit's September Write-Away contest.


  1. Great post! I love those quotes. And I'm impressed you took the energy to pass on a very important lesson to your kids, even if they were too immature to get it at the time :)

  2. I saw your comment on the Lproof blog and wanted to stop by and say hello.

    Beautiful post.

    You will love the Bible study, I did it a few years ago.

  3. I cannot believe that there are people who still feel that way--seems so crazy it's hard to understand.

  4. I love those quotes! I wrote about race, too, for my submission, which is how I found your blog. I always feel grateful when my daughter has a teacher who shares values similar to yours.

  5. Very nice! It is inconceivable to think that racial ignorance still lives but the important thing is that with teachers like you teaching through your quotes and your words,the barriers of ignorance begin to crumble! Thank you!


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