What Color Is Your Face?

I’m writing at BlogHer this week about an eye-opening experience I had while volunteering as an Art Docent in my child’s class.

kids art by jonathanjonl, Flickr

For my latest project, I taught Little Brother’s first grade class how to draw self-portraits. The lesson wassupposed to be about proportions. Each child would get a large sheet of white paper, on which they would draw an oval and sketch in pencil lines which would help them place their eyes, nose and mouth.

The supply list called for white paper for the faces and brightly colored paper for the backgrounds. At the last minute, I grabbed a stack of brown paper, too. The school is nearly half Latino, with some African-American, Asian, and Indian kids, as well as Hapa children, like my own. I created my sample — my own self-portrait — on a brown sheet of paper, even though it was slightly darker than my own complexion.

It was supposed to be a lesson in proportion.

Read what happened next  at A Lesson in Art — and Racial Identity on BlogHer.


  1. says

    that is such an interesting outcome. how old are these kids? do you think that maybe they are just too young to really have thought about the color of their skin tone before the lesson and just picked whatever color they liked? so interesting to see their choices. i wish you could ask each one of them about their choices for their pictures. not just skin color but everything else too. i truly love discovering how the minds of young children work. they are amazing :)


  2. says

    I find this kind of troubling. But I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what bothers me. I wish that skin colour wasn’t an issue, that children didn’t see it, that it din’t matter to them. But that’s obviously naive.
    My own daughter is caucasian, but she was born in Japan, and hangs out almost exclusively with other asian toddlers. She seems to prefer Asian faces – gravitating to them when we are out, being more comfortable with Asian strangers. She even prefers her asian doll to her caucasian one. So perhaps this data point suggests that children turn towards whatever skin colour is that of the majority culture? Whatever the reason, I truly hope that my daughter’s experience growing up in Asia helps her to see the world beyond colour and ethnicity.

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