Teaching Kids About Race Using Eggs

Explaining Race to Kids

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, I thought today was a fitting day to tell the story about one of my favorite elementary school experiences. When Mackenzie was in the 2nd grade, her school held an event to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday. They used this event to show the kids that no matter how different we may be on the outside, on the inside we’re all the same.

That in itself is very nice, but the true impact for me was how they conveyed this message. They made this a morning event complete with breakfast for everyone. The menu was pancakes, bacon and eggs. Not just white eggs but brown eggs, too. Everyone ate and had a good time and then they began the assembly.

Each of the classes were given both a brown and white egg and the teachers asked them to describe the eggs. What did they look like? What color were they? Did they look the same except for the color? All the children responded with the obvious answers and then the teachers asked them to open the eggs.

What about now that we see the inside of the eggs? How were they different? “They’re not different at all” the children responded. That’s right! the teachers told them. Just like people – we all look different on the outside, but if you could see our insides, we’d all look the same. I was wowed by this simple, yet powerful way to explain to a very young group of children such an important message about race.

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I like to think that our society is different than it was when I was their age and certainly when my parents were growing up but I’m not always sure that it is. I remember when I was a kid that my parents defined people by the color of their skin and even in the early 80’s I knew it was wrong.

Steve and I didn’t have to “vow” that we would never do that when we had kids – it just never happened. I actually think we went too far on the other side because I still remember the day one of the girls asked me why “that lady had darker skin”.. and it dawned on me that I had never explained to them that people aren’t all created the same “on the outside”.  People have different colors to their skin and it’s based on where their families are from.. our family is largely Anglo-Saxon, so we’re all very pale. That family is largely Italian, so their skin is darker. That family is largely African-American so their skin is also darker.

Do you find it challenging to teach your kids about how people are different without placing too much emphasis on those differences? When your child defines someone by a physical character trait, what do you say?

Comments

January 23, 2014 at 8:03 am

I’m glad I’ll have the egg example when my kids get old enough and curious enough to ask about why people look different. So simple, yet so profound.
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January 22, 2014 at 7:58 am

And sometimes they are twins!
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January 20, 2014 at 11:24 am

I absolutely LOVE that egg lesson. It is perfect. We talk a lot about how people are just people, no matter what they look like. :)-Ashley
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January 20, 2014 at 9:52 am

I need to remember this egg activity when I go back to teaching! When my daughters were little, one of them did ask once about the darker skin color of a friend, so I explained that we are all different. It hasn’t come up again; their school is very diverse along with our neighborhood, and their friends come from many different cultures.
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January 20, 2014 at 8:06 am

I love this…we’re all the same on the inside! What a perfect way to teach young children. My husband’s family is Italian and Lebanese, so they have a darker skin tone than my pale English / Russian family. The boys are paler like me; our daughter has a more olive skin tone like my husband.
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January 20, 2014 at 6:44 am

Oh how I love this idea! Thank you so much for sharing it with me! I am really struggling with teaching Malone about this. We are an inclusive family and race isn’t an issue in our house at all.
The problem is that Malone is such a lover of color and rainbows (he’s 4.5) that he hates all things brown- brown socks, brown crayons, brown food, animals with brown fur, and so on. This has manifested into skin color as well. We’ve told him over and over again that we’re all the same on the inside and reminded him about the brown people he’s got in his life that he really enjoys playing with but from time to time it still comes up. The next time it does, I am going to try this idea to reinforce the concept. THANK YOU!
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