The Skin You’re In 

April 18, 2017

When I was little, I didn't pay any more attention to the color of people's skin than I did to the color of their hair or their eyes. In kindergarten, there were beige kids and tan ones, brown and pink. There were kids with polka dotted skin and one boy whose skin was lavender with yellow scar tissue. We had hair that was black, brown, yellow, or red and eyes that were blue, green, grey or brown. But we were all kindergartners, and that's what mattered.

In second grade I realized that, for some people, the color of someone's skin was more important than their character. My second-grade teacher Mrs. Haley, was one of the pioneering African-American teachers in Seattle School District. We loved Mrs. Haley. She wore pretty dresses and taught us how to add and subtract with toys. One day, I was washing paintbrushes in the big utility sink in the cloakroom. A boy told me I shouldn't play with a certain girl during recess. She was in third grade, and we didn't play with third-graders. That's what I thought he objected to, but he said no, it was because she was a Negro. I asked him why that would matter. After all, Mrs. Haley was a Negro. By then, a lot of kids in the cloakroom were listening to our conversation. They started to chime in. They all thought the boy was being silly. No one could understand why my friend's skin color or Mrs. Haley's skin color mattered.

Children are taught prejudice. Here are some books that show that the color of people's skin shouldn't divide them: The Skin You Live in, Tyler, Michael; The Bracelet/Uchida, Yoshiko; Mrs. Katz and Tush; Polacco, Patricia; Pink and Say, Polacco, Patricia; Vera's New School, Rosenberry, Vera.

- Suzanne Sanderson, Plymouth Librarian

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