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Posted on Sat, Jun 12, 2010 : 7:07 a.m.

Wear Maize and Blue to the King School Ice Cream Social

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

At Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School’s Leslie Science and Nature Center assembly Friday, Francie called on a boy to answer a question, then hesitated, “I was about to say the boy in the Michigan shirt, but that seems to be almost everyone today.” King School was a sea of maize and blue Friday. It started long ago, at King School’s Silent Auction, but more recently, families received an email, phone call, and blog post from King School Principal Kevin Karr reminding families about the King School Ice Cream Social on Friday:

WEAR MAIZE AND BLUE! As a result of the money donated at the silent auction fundraiser, please remember everyone must wear wear maize and blue at the ice cream social. This includes fans who root for Ohio State, Michigan State, and similar lesser universities.

I had a confused conversation with an earnest new parent and recent immigrant last week about “the requirement to wear blue and what color?”

I tried to explain that maize means yellow and what happened at the Silent Auction (see Up Front Section of the June Ann Arbor Observer), but quickly realized that I had to start at the beginning.

“There are university rivalries. There is a university in Ohio called Ohio State that competes with the University of Michigan in football. Universities have school colors….”

There is so much meaning embedded in cultural context that we do not even see until someone new comes along who does not understand. It is nice to be occasionally reminded of the subjective and contextual nature of our world.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at