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.