On Friday, our 4th grade class had “book buddies” with a 1st grade class (it’s exactly how it sounds– 1st and 4th graders are paired up, and they read books together). It was our first book buddy session, so we, the teachers, had to assign the partnerships for the year.
The 1st grade teacher immediately told us that one of her students spoke Spanish and almost no English, and we agreed that it’d be great to partner him with a Spanish-speaking 4th grader, to make him feel more comfortable. So we did.
Then we thought “Oh, WE have a Japanese-speaking 4th grader– do you have any 1st graders who speak Japanese?” And she did, so we paired them together and then watched delightedly as they conversed in both English and Japanese.
“How lovely! We’re great!” we thought.
But then, as we looked around the room and saw Asians paired with Asians, Hispanics paired with Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders/Other paired with other Pacific Islanders/Other….we thought, “Oh, fuck– are we racist?”
Nah. Our intentions were good.
I’ll admit we were toeing the line when we yelled “Hey, you two Jews! Go find a book about money and read together.”