Some of us are ending our second week of school, while others are still putting up fadeless paper and anxiously waiting for our class list to be placed in our mailboxes. Either way the season of going back to school is upon us. Tireless effort devoted to making the first day of school as close to perfect as possible. An effort that at its core is for every student who walks through our door to feel…welcome.

There is no other time where every student has so much attention warranted in preparation of his or her arrival. Name tags, book bags, birthday charts, parent letters, community building, etc. My mind has begun to consider what are the efforts extended for the students that arrive after the golden first day? I’m sure I’m not the only one that would sigh (on occasion) when there was a knock at the door with a parent, a student, and the white registration paper. Sure, on my best days I interrupted our learning, gathered the class, and spent time introducing the student to our class, sometimes there was even a “special helper” to assist with the transition. My best days however were not all my days. In fact the knock at the door usually occurred during the sacred reading block, minutes before intervention groups, and those are the days, that my actions of speaking quickly, being extra dramatic rearranging desks, modeling a “think aloud” as I gathered textbooks that were in short supply, must have accomplished one thing: a feeling other than welcome.

Though I cringe at those memories, I shutter now at our current societal environment. Exactly how welcome do our minority children feel? An avid Anderson Cooper fan, I found gorgeous Anderson and I were pondering over the same topic. How do children view race? Friday evening on Anderson Cooper 360 the feature story was “Black or White, Kids on Race.” How much better can a Friday night get? Anderson, children, race and a positive attitude!  A night out on the town doesn’t even come close to this level of enjoyment!

Anderson and I both wanted to believe that 50 years after the Civil Rights Act, and 2 years after the election of President Barack Obama, in the year 2010, our children would reflect a post racial society.

(I had a suspicious feeling though that little had changed; maybe it’s my cynicism or the reality of being an Arizona resident.) 

CNN gathered a team of psychologists to conduct interviews with 130 children, half from the north, half from the south, two age groups, and representative of two races: black and white. The study was based on the historic 1940 Doll Study where black children overwhelmingly chose white dolls over black dolls.  In 2010 the question is asked, “Does white bias still exist?” The answer is yes. 

“Show me the dumb child.”

About 76% of the younger white children pointed to the two darkest skin tones.

“Show me the skin color most adults don’t like.”

About 66% of the younger white children pointed to the two darkest skin tones.

Disturbing. Shocking? No. Thought provoking was this tidbit:

75% of white families have never become specific about race.

Hmmmm, now applying my context to this situation I began to think about Arizona families. How many of Arizona families have become specific about race? How many of Arizona families have become specific about ethnicity? Let’s imagine a conversation at the dinner table as Channel 3 is airing the latest rally supporting SB1070. 

A parent interviewed for the CNN study shared this perspective:

“I’ve never said black skin is bad, but I’ve never said black skin is great.”

What do we say about brown skin? When we see, hear or think about brown skin do we automatically bring into mind legal status? Do our children share our thinking? What might the implications be for our brown children? If brown skin in Arizona is synonymous with hatred, bigotry and contempt, imagine being a six year old and looking at your hands that are golden brown.

What do you think that child’s answer would be when asked,

“Show me the child that deserves to be in the United States.”  

“Show me the color most police officers like.” 

If that’s our society…all the name tags, birthday charts, and community building in our schools becomes rather irrelevant. Children feeling welcomed cannot be our concern simply within the four walls of our classrooms.  See the fact is we must begin to think about children feeling welcome when they walk out of our classrooms as well. Unless we, the keepers of the future, don’t really want to concern ourselves with the happenings outside of our classroom…


Daniela A. Robles

Daniela A. Robles

Phoenix, Arizona

I am a teacher and beginning my fourteenth year of teaching in Arizona’s public schools. The greatest lessons I learned were from teaching first grade for ten years. My inspirations stem from these past few years where my classroom has ranged from the Intervention Room to the Coaches’ Room.

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