Everything I Need to Know About Being an Artist, I Learned in the Second Grade.
Kate Jones, © 2010
Kate is CS sitting at a table with a picture of her mother and a coloring of a clown. There are crayons and Kate will color while telling this story.
My mom didn’t really help me with my homework when I was a kid. She was always insecure about her education. She grew up in Vietnam and dropped out of school in the 4th grade.
But there was one day, on time, when she did help me. My teacher gave us a picture to color of a clown who was juggling balls, and in each of the balls, there was a math problem. So the assignment combined my two loves, art and math. I had waited until the last minute to do the assignment and my mom offered to help. I was so excited. She had never tried to help before but this was an assignment she could handle.
I remember her saying that we should make the clown different, so he’ll stand out and I would be able to see it from my seat. At the time, my favorite show was Punky Brewster because everyone said I looked like her. I loved that her clothes were crazy and colorful, and my mom said that we could color the clown’s outfit crazily. That night, she taught me that if you press hard with your crayon, you can make new sections to color.
It was a masterpiece. I had never been so proud of anything I had ever created as I was of this clown, that I made with my mom.
I handed it in the next day and my teacher brought it up to me and asked, “Who helped you with this?”
I told her my mom did. And she said, “Hrmph. Chinks. Can’t even color.” And she tore up my clown and threw it in the trash. My snarky, second grade self said, “Shows what you know, we’re Vietnamese.”
I never told anyone about what happened because I had learned the year before when my sister was called Chink by a teacher, that they don’t get in trouble for saying that. And I so badly wanted my mom to help me again. It wasn’t the first, and it wouldn’t be the last time I’d hear that slur, but I learned an important lesson that day.
[Kate hands the clown she’s been coloring to someone and says the next line to them.]
If you don’t like my art, it’s probably because you’re a racist.
OWN the book!
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