When I saw this photo on Pinterest it instantly brought a smile to my face. A smile because it represented all skin. It also evoked memories of my childhood. I remember being in Kindergarten and using crayons to draw. I always loved art. Exploring colours was half the fun. But there was something that instantly made me feel awkward and uncomfortable, even as a 5-year-old. That was when we would draw people and were instructed by our teacher to use the ‘flesh’ coloured crayon. Imagine seeing the only crayon that is marked flesh is the colour of Caucasian skin. “What about me?” I thought. That’s not my colour. So does that mean my skin isn’t flesh or isn’t real? The irony of this story is that with the Civil Rights movement, Crayola voluntarily changed the name of the ‘flesh’ crayon to ‘peach’ in 1962 to avoid getting into any legal troubles. But Crayola isn’t the only company that made crayons so you can imagine there were still companies carrying the ‘flesh’ name.
An experience like what I had could be the beginning of a child feeling uncomfortable in their skin. It may sound silly to some people but the way we think about ourselves starts very young. That is why it is so important to speak positively to children and reinforce good things and thoughts in them early on. In a case like what I experienced, a teacher could say that even though there was only one crayon marked as being ‘flesh’, we should know that there are other colours inside the box of crayons that could be the flesh of all kinds of people around the world.
In my experience, even though it was marked ‘flesh’ and the teacher told us to use that one, I gravitated to the brown crayon. Because my skin was brown. I would hope that other children would be bold enough to do the same. I say bold because at that age, defying what your teacher said is a big deal.
There is beauty in all skin tones. Remember that. All skin is flesh.