Two days ago, I had a family of five stop by my book table at Mahaffie Farms in Olathe, Kansas. Two of the three little, lily-white, blond-headed girls were third graders, identical twins. As I talked about the themes of this complex story I've written, I held up a copy of Mighty TALL Orders.
Since third grade is a little young for this book's target age and these twins also had a younger sister about four, I was working hard to bring complicated issues down to their level. Yet I love to teach kids new words that open doors in hopes of imparting some understanding of oppression.
"Do you girls know what racism is?" I asked.
Their little faces matched their admission, made clear by each shaking their heads. They didn't have a clue. Being pretty good at reading body language, I very quickly perceived their parents were not the least uncomfortable with me broaching this topic. So I plunged in.
"What if I told you two girls, as twins, that I am certain you think exactly alike and act exactly the same because you look identical?" I asked. The whole family burst into laughter.
Just from the way those two girls approached the table--one ready to converse with excitement, the other standing back and observing quietly, happy to have her twin do all the talking....I already had a hunch they were starkly different. Indeed they were! Conversation soon affirmed this, and we had a very good example that led to talking about skin culture and stereotyping and condescension--all in a relatively short conversation, which I trust may lead to a lot more in their household.
I sure hope so.