Seeing Color

Last week with the Migrant Education Program was soccer camp with about 60 4th-12th graders. It was the first time I have ever played soccer, so it was definitely an experience. Each morning I woke up a little sorer than the last.  This was a constant reminder for the teachers that we are getting too old to keep up with the kids.  As the week went on, we had different talks with the students, not only for general announcements, but to also address any concerns or issues that had come up.  Having the students outside the classroom in this unique environment allowed us to not only focus on the children’s soccer skills, but to also encourage positive character development. Respect was a common theme throughout the week with conversations about respecting the teachers and respecting one another.

Tuesday’s conversation addressed some offensive comments that were said the day before. Some kids were joking that a boy was from Africa because his skin was darker. This wasn’t the first time I had heard this though. During summer school, this exact comment was made in my classroom as well as comments about a boy not being Mexican because he was “too White.”  These comments can be hurtful to anyone, but especially for a child who is already self-conscious about and criticized for who they are, where they come from, and what language they speak at home. What makes these situations even more complicated is the fact that these comments are coming from someone with a similar background.  The majority of my higher ed kids were from Mexico, but there is diversity within the country, especially with the region’s history of colonization and slavery.  It is important to remember that prejudice and discrimination is not only present between different races and ethnicities, but also within these different groups. 

On Friday, one girl, probably around the age of twelve, came up to me and said she didn’t want to play outside in the afternoon because she didn’t want to get a tan.  To be darker, in her eyes, was ugly, and although she enjoyed playing soccer, it was more important for her to try to remain lighter.

It is evident that children are greatly affected by social constructs and that in terms of race and ethnicity, the ideas of who is superior and who is inferior are impacting children.  What is extremely sad is that these inequalities are negatively affecting the educational environment for children, hindering them from reaching their full potentials.

Erin O’Connor
Gettysburg

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