Gender, Race, and Colour

Class sizes and demographics change every year. Schools try to keep the number of boys and girls in classes relatively the same. Last year I had 11 boys and 13 girls in my class. 5 of those students were black, 2 were white, and the rest were East Indian. I didn’t think of them in those terms, mind you, but many people do.

This year, I am working in a much smaller community. I have only 16 kids in my class and only 5 girls. Today 3 of the girls were off sick, and one was working one on one with a specialist. The remaining girl in class became aware that she was the only girl in the classroom this morning and commented on it. I immediately said something to the effect that it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl; we are all here for the same purpose, which is to learn.

Later, in the staff room, I told one of my fellow teachers about this incident. She told me that she doesn’t even call her class boys and girls. She always says that she has this many people in her class. We are all people.

Why do people see things in terms of gender, race, and colour?

I am asking this question in light of the Don Imus incident that the media is covering like it is extremely vital news. I know that racist comments are not to be taken lightly and that he did offend people. I won’t argue that. But today I was watching the news on cable and they were showing a group of journalist students, all of whom happened to be black. They were discussing the incident and I was quite taken aback by what one of the students said. He said that he thinks the world needs people like Imus to remind “us that we are black.”

This student’s comments made me laugh. I wasn’t sure what he meant. I’m still not sure. All I know is that we don’t need reminders of how we are different from each other. Everyone is different and unique. I don’t care if you are a male or a female, or what race or ethnicity you are, or what colour your skin is. We are all people, as my fellow teacher would say. I think that is what we need to remember.

Don’t think in terms of gender, race, or colour. Does it matter that I am a male teacher in primary education? No! I am a teacher. That’s it. Does it matter that my student was the only girl in the class for nearly an hour today? No! She’s a student. That’s it.

I also saw a commercial for a news special about racism. It asked us to look at our friends. “Chances are they look just like you,” the voice over said. It continued, “Are we guilty of self-segregation?”

Everyone is looking at race lately it seems. It’s the hot button topic. Doesn’t this focus lead us astray? Shouldn’t we stop focusing on it, pull back the frame and see the big picture. We don’t need to call attention to gender, race, or skin colour. Life is diverse. People are varied in so many beautiful ways. We need to recognize this beauty.