“I’m just glad to know we’re not the only ones.” Abdirizak looked at me with his deep, contemplative eyes as he started to walk out of my classroom.
The Proudest Blue, A Story of Hijab and Family speaks to the exciting first day of hijab for Asiya told through the eyes of her little sister Faizah. This story shows the tension of pride in one’s culture and the pain brought on by the ignorance and cruelty of others.
My kindergarteners love this book. It represents about 1/3 of my class and so to them, this book shows their lives. Their comments after the story included: “I love the hijab.” “Faizah is right, hijabs are not a tablecloth, that boy was wrong.” “She draws hijabs pretty.” The message of the story was not lost on them, however they focused on what they thought in that moment and the beautiful illustrations which they can be seen pouring over day in and day out.
Knowing the deeper message in this book, I wanted to share it with older students and have a bigger conversation. So I set up a time to go up to fifth grade and shared it with my former students. This conversation wasn’t an easy one to start, one about the complexity of race and racist actions, but once the door was open, their stories came pouring out.
In today’s world where hate crimes are committed daily and where my sweet preteen, former student, who also happens to be Muslim and black, looks up at me and says:
“Miss Masse, I don’t like that these thing happen, they shouldn’t, but I’m just glad to know we’re not the only ones.” ,
I don’t know what to say. I get it…as best as I can. The reality is, I will never fully understand but I am working hard to do what I can to spread the message of tolerance, of kindness, of peace. When Abdirizak walked out my door, he turned around and said to me,
“Miss Masse, thanks for teaching us we’re important too.”
and I felt like, at least for that moment, he got my message.