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The Color of Camp Counselors

I dropped my kids off for their first day of camp today. My oldest is studying digital photography, while my youngest is studying amusement parks. I'm definitely eager to hear about their day, but as I dropped them off, I had some other thoughts beyond their courses of study.

(You can go over to Spectrum of Reviews for my gushing about this educational camp experience which happens to be sponsored, but I have paid for additional sessions for the past couple years on my own dime since I'm such a fan.)

One of the things I love about this camp is its staff. After all, the enthusiasm of the staff in motivating the kids and their expertise in teaching the material is critical to how successful the camp is in providing educational fun.

So, when I checked in my older son for his photography group, I was pleased to see that the young man teaching him is definitely one of those "artsy" types. His personality is different than what my son is used to. That will be terrific for my son. (Also, I was pretty happy to see that both this instructor and the fashion design instructor have visible tattoos -- something which isn't common in our more conservative area.)

My younger son was thrilled to learn that he was placed in a group as the same counselor he had last year (I had requested this, since last year was so amazing.) This counselor has the same name as my son, so last year they were "Big" and "Little." And, this counselor is African-American.

I wouldn't normally mention the color of his skin, but with this weekend's disappointing news out of Florida, I admit being pretty happy that the young man my son looks up to is African-American. (As it happens, the counselor he had two years ago and also adored is also African-American.)

We live in a pretty white place. In fact, my oldest son as a toddler loudly remarked of an African-American woman grocery checker, "Wow, she's so dirty her face is brown!" (He also told a very white woman that her belly was "so very very big like a very big circle!")

At camp, the counselors are the experts. The kids look up to them. I love that there are people of different ethnic backgrounds, varying body types, and dynamic personalities teaching the kids. There are dudes with long hair and girls with colored spiky short hair. There are piercings, beards, tattoos, and plenty of smiles. (There are also tutus and rubber chickens.)

Even before this weekend I had spoken to my boys about white privilege and socio-economic privilege. Admittedly, I don't recall how the topic came up, but as my kids are getting older, I want to make them aware of just how incredibly lucky they are, and how it is important to not make judgement based on their story rather than understanding how someone else's story may be vastly different because of their less-privileged circumstances.

Yeah, having camp counselors who look a bit different than what my sons typically see around our community is but a drop in the bucket, but exposure to different people and personalities is definitely part of their education. As they interact with and admire people who don't look like them, then I hope they won't be so quick to judge based on appearances.

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