I nearly cried at school today. The words of a second grader broke my heart.
Demographics by ethnicity, Hope of Detroit Academy, one 2nd Grade class:
With the majority of students speaking Spanish at home, and kids being so brilliant at learning language, most of the class is somewhat bilingual. Even those who only hear Spanish from the other kids at school.
This week I've been teaching second grade while the teachers are pulling kids out one-by-one for literacy testing.
During a period of independent and/or small group work today, I had to talk to a few of the boys who were getting out of control. There was some kicking, some stealing pencils... all the normal bored second grade boy stuff. It happened that this time it was the only three black boys in the class. They hang out together (there's a good book called "Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D. if you want to know why).
After I sent them away, a very cute girl with big green/brown eyes came up to me. We'd connected a little bit at recess before, so I think she felt comfortable talking with me. She came close, with a very serious face, and said in the voice of one divulging a dear secret:
"My mama says that I can't get close to those mean dark boys. I shouldn't get close with them."
I was shocked, scared, angry... but mostly heartbroken. I nearly cried. I might have said any number of things, like "Just because they look different doesn't make them mean." But in the moment, I had no response for her.