This past Saturday, I took my daughter for manicures, then we decided to go to the mall for a bit. I love my girl time with her; we always have so much fun. So after my daughter’s nails got the pink/purple/sparkle treatment, we headed to the mall. We parked the car and attempted to cross the crosswalk. There was a woman driving an SUV who, despite the fact that we were in the middle of it, did not stop. (grrrrrrrrrrr) But that’s not the worst part; there was a couple behind me and the woman said aloud “What do you expect, she’s Asian?” (referring to the driver.) I then turned around with my (Asian) daughter and said to her, “And so is my daughter. What is that supposed to mean?” (Can you say busted??) I could see the shock on the woman’s face. She then put her hand on my shoulder (which I shook off) and said, “Oh, no, there was this study in China….’ I didn’t let her finish. I let her know that she was ignorant and racist and what she said was not ok. She kept trying to tell me about this supposed study, but I kept stopping her. This exchange continued into the mall (In Neiman Marcus, no less. The La Mer ladies were in shock.) and got a little loud. Her and her husband were defending her remark, and at one point the husband loudly announced, “Don’t talk to her, she’s a bitch.” This floored me. How did I become the bitch in this scenario? It took everything in my being to not go ballistic. I was very careful with my words and how I used them. My daughter was holding my hand the whole time, and after the entire exchange, I was shaking and had to sit down. My daughter looked up at me and said, “what’s wrong, mommy?” I told her that there are some not nice people in the world, and that those two people were a couple of them. I left it at that. She doesn’t know what racism is. She doesn’t know what racial stereotypes are. But she will. And at some point, I will have to talk to my kids about it.
As a Caucasian growing up in middle class America, there are many things I don’t know about and have not had to experience. I have never had a racial slur thrown at me. I’ve never been made fun of because of my race. I have never gotten into fights over it. And I have never been the only one of my race in a large crowd and made to feel alone and awkward. But these are all things my husband, as a minority, has experienced. He grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and had to develop a thick skin. He’s been called names because of being Asian more times than he can count, has been made fun of, is often the only Asian person for miles, and has gotten into physical altercations over it. I honestly cannot imagine this. Life can be hard enough without having to deal with assholes being assholes because of the way God made you.
As much as I want to, I won’t be able to protect my children from racism. At some point in their lives, they will most likely hear an Asian joke or a racial slur. And when they are old enough to understand, I will have to tell them about the people that will do this to them and why they’re doing it. And I have to figure out how to say all of that. Obviously, my husband will be a big part of that discussion. But I have to say that I think it’s awful that I even have to have that talk at all. I hate that I have to tell my kids about people in the world who hate other people just because of the way they look, who they love, or where they’re from. I hate that someone will try to make my kids feel bad about who they are. And I hate that I can’t stop it.
I know I can’t protect my kids from everything. But I can teach them to be better than those people. Better than the couple that we encountered at the mall. I will teach them acceptance. We all come in different sizes, shapes and colors. We are all so different. And I am counting on other parents to teach that same lesson. That couple at the mall clearly didn’t get that lesson. At some point, they learned that it was ok to make a remark like that. They learned that. Children are not born with racial bias-they learn it. So I truly hope that children are getting that lesson, so that another mom walking into a mall doesn’t have to encounter another couple like I did.
So maybe instead of buying off the registry for your girlfriend’s baby shower, you could give her a copy of “How Not to Be a Dick When You Grow Up”. Or maybe we should put it on the school required reading list. We’ll all be better off with less dicks in the world.