Thursday, August 30, 2007

What a cute baby! Guess who it is. Duh.

Apparently it's the tradition at school for 3rd graders (and now 6th graders at the middle school) to get to know their classmates by sharing some facts about themselves posted alongside a baby picture.

The assignment goes something like this: Did you cry a lot as a baby? Did you sleep a lot as a baby? What was your favorite baby toy? etc, etc. Please bring a baby picture sealed in an envelope with your name on the envelope. Photos will be returned when we are done with the classroom project.

The photos are posted alongside the blurb of information, but there are no names. The idea is that each child must guess at the identity of the baby based on the baby picture and the information.

When my daughter did this in 3rd grade she was the only Asian American in the class; she is the only AA in her 6th grade life skills class. From what I can tell so far, my son is the only one in his class this year.

So I don't want to be hyper-sensitive and find racism in everything. There are not many redheads in my son's class so that would be an easy one, unless the redheaded child didn't have much hair as a baby. My daughter didn't come home traumatized that everyone identified her photograph with little to no discussion. And my son is the one who still doesn't understand why a classmate would come up to him at the playground yelling "Chinese eyes" since he isn't Chinese.

Yet the fact remains we live in a highly racialized society and culture.

There is a part of me that cringes at the assignment and some of the messages it may send unintentionally. There is an underlying assumption that the baby pictures will look similar enough that there is an element of surprise and competition. There is also an element of competition and pride for the kids - "It took the class "x" minutes to figure out which picture was mine."

For my daughter, her friend "E" from Kenya, and my son there is no element of surprise.

Unless the photo I send is the one where they are so bundled up you can barely make out a face.

Here's the kicker for me. My daughter is doing this assignment for her life skills class. Personally, I can think of several other life skills these new 6th graders need to learn.

4 comments:

sabrina said...

Last year I attended a baby shower where the evite asked us to bring a baby picture for this game. My 98% Caucasian church was a little unaware of how this game plays out in non-homogenous groups. :) In my RSVP I mentioned something about how my picture would be easy to guess... Later on, the evite changed to show that the game would be 'bring a onesie and we'll all personalize one for the baby', which I thought was much more fun. :D

Lisa said...

the funny thing is that i went to a baby shower that had the same game, but the mom-to-be was an adopted korean and the only non-white woman there and her mom is the one that planned the shower. we joked that everyone got at least one point. it's a little different when it's kids though because they do feel a competitive edge to whether or not their picture can be guessed.

Zachariah Wiedeman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zachariah Wiedeman said...

Wow, I myself have actually taken pause at these kind of games - since I am one of the only Caucasians among my friends at church and school. That makes me sad to hear your kids are facing these kind of situations already, but isn't it wonderful that God has blessed them with grace the innocence to not be super sensitive and hurt yet? ..as opposed to how, as adults, we often end up jaded and sensitive after being exposed to so many rough situations like that - often without receiving the proper guidance from a caring mentor on how to process our feelings and turn them over to God.

I am especially surprised that the life skills class was doing that - seems like a sort of wasted effort...

A woman in my church (which is almost entirely Asian American) did a similar game with photos she took of volunteers during the week of VBS - except, THESE pictures were closeups of people's hands, or ears, an eye, the back of someone's head, etc.... it turned so well that you I couldn't even tell which photos belonged to myself or my sisters (we are all Caucasian). Anyway, I just really appreciated her creative take on a game which has been known to present many conundrums in an ethnically mixed or unbalanced crowd.