Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Dorky White Kid Conversation Update

Just for the record, I don't call the little boy who spewed racial remarks to my 8 year old The Dorky White Kid when in company with my girls. He is only that in my mind, and ok, the blog too. 

The other night we sat down to dinner and I asked the girls if they remembered the incident at the pool.   Foolish question, you big dorky white mom.  Of course they remembered and they immediately had opinions on the subject. Shock of all shocks that Ava had an opinion.   I explained that I was feeling like perhaps I didn't handle the situation very well since I didn't ask Ava if she wanted me to pursue an apology or communicate that what the little boy said was hurtful.  I told them that I was worried that by glossing over the situation by saying I was sorry that happened but, GO PLAY in the pool and move on I was negating the fact that they had just experienced a significant racial slur.  I told them that I wondered how it might feel if you have to go through life sometimes experiencing racism and you are simply taught to constantly turn the other cheek and act like it didn't negatively affect you.  Would that eventually make you feel sad inside?  Would it make you feel like you weren't in control? Would it make you feel eventually like you had no voice?

Ava thought about it for a minute and simply stated,  "Mom, I would have liked an apology."   Pretty clear right?  I told her that if anything like that ever happens again I will turn to them and ask what they would like me to do. Which might involve asking the other child for an apology and it might include informing their parent that we experienced hurtful racial language at the hand of their child. Ava said she was happy with this decision to handle things differently in the future.

Then Olivia piped up.  In an attempt to tell a story, which doesn't always come easy for her she explained that at a party this summer several kids were playing in a room and a boy asked Ava and Olivia where they got such ugly black straight hair.  Visions of a party we attended this summer where the adults were outside enjoying fireworks and sparkly drinks and the kids were running free in and out of the house came rushing back.  I immediately knew exactly which party she was talking about and which little boy she was remembering.  (Incidently, this little boy was a bit of a handful (that is being tactful) and was causing havoc the entire evening...not necessarily singling out my girls to torture.  If memory serves, he made several kids cry that night.) Still...for 4 year old Olivia to remember that this was said to her 6 weeks ago!  Blew my mind.

When all is said and done the girls said that they were happy we talked about this.  I asked if they would please come to me when they hear these things out in the world.  I want them to share these experiences and not keep them bottled up inside, only wondering what might be wrong with themselves at age 15, or 45, etc...

I've learned a few things from this whole incident.

1.  Racism happens in "good" neighborhoods.  Even where people are highly educated.  Perhaps even more in some instances due to the fact that lots of kids in upper class neighborhoods aren't seeing enough people of color in their daily lives. 
2.  Racism happens amongst children, they are learning it everywhere.
3.  My Chinese born kids are enduring and navigating racism when I am not with them.  They are only 8 and 4 years old.
4.  No matter how close your family is and how much you think you know your kids, and perhaps think they tell you everything.  They don't.   

Oh yeah, we'll be having this conversation about race and hatred a lot in the months and years to come.

* A special thank you to those who commented publicly and privately sharing your very real, and sometimes raw stories of racism and how that shaped you as an adult.   It's made me think.


8468 said...


Karen said...

I missed these posts back in August- but am so glad you're writing about it. My 4 year old, less than a week into kindergarten, told me a couple weekends ago, "Mommy, I wish I had light skin like you." It about made my heart stop. And I didn't blog about it. Though I am white as white gets, her dad (my husband) is half-Chinese- and our little girl is regularly exposed to Chinese people (and people of other racial and ethnic backgrounds, too). This didn't come from us- but it came from somewhere. And it made me so sad she felt that way at all . . .