Kids learn things even when they’re not taught them. Television and the expectations of the adults around them shape their outlooks, often with unintended consequences.
In Belgium, school network Samen Onderwijs Maken asked kids to take part in an experiment with unsettling results. Directed to pick a colored pencil to use to fill in “skin color” on a drawing of a person, every child picked the light pink shade. Even kids with skin tones much better matched by other pencils in the box picked pink.
When asked to choose orange or green, kids happily obliged, so they know their colors. And when asked to color in a picture of themselves, they all choose a pencil that’s very representative of how they actually look. But the phrase “skin color” throws them off.
It’s reminiscent of an issue crayon brand Crayola addressed in the U.S. in the 1960s, when it changed the name of the “flesh” crayon to “peach.” But these pencils aren’t named anything so leading. So SOM and TBWA Belgium created a box of pencils with seven different shades—The Skin Color Collection—to redefine what kids think of as the right color for skin.
The box was released on March 21, the International Day Against Racism, with an event where students gathered in the Belgian city of Leuven to color huge drawings of people in all different shades, from light pink to dark brown. The box is available for the next month on the SOM website for about $2.75.
In the 1990s, Crayola released its line of “Multicultural” products, which feature packs of crayons or markers in skin tone shades. The Belgian pack is a bit less on the nose with its marketing, but anything that helps kids see themselves in their art is a great initiative.