An eventful mall trip and a helpful guide

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.


If I read one more Dora book, my head will explode.

Books have always been important in my life. Ever since I can remember, I have loved to read. I have vivid memories of getting lost in books like Ramona the Pest, A Wrinkle in Time, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on. Books have such a way of transporting you. Of showing you things you’ve never seen. Of showing you the world, whether its this world or one imagined by the author.  So it’s only natural that I pass this love of reading onto my children. It’s not coming from  my husband-reading a magazine about the latest BMW engine is his idea of heavy reading. (There is always a stack of car magazines in every bathroom in our house.) Thankfully, they’ve responded. I’ve tried to incorporate into their library books that are of educational value. Books that teach a lesson. Books that broaden their horizons. I have this vision of my children being so ahead of the curve by the time they get to kindergarten their teacher says to me: “Oh my, Mrs. Lee-your children are so intelligent and well-read! It must be from all of those wonderful books you’ve been reading to them.”  Unfortunately, my daughter now only reaches for books about Dora (puke) and Barbie (double puke). As hard as I try…. sigh…. But the reality is that after reading like a gazillion books with the line “Swiper, no swiping” (really???), the teacher will most likely pull me aside and say “Mrs. Lee-your daughter is hoarding all of her pencils and folders for fear some kleptomaniac fox is going to steal them. Do you know what this is about? Oh, and she talks to her her backpack and refuses to take it off. Like ever.” Parenting win. No, really, we do read a lot of different kinds of books. My favorite ones are the ones that show diversity. The ones that show that not all people look the same. That there are different skin colors. Different eye shapes. Different religions. Different ways of doing things. I think that lesson is one of the best ones I can teach my children. That the world is diverse. And to accept things that are different from them. My kids are, in fact, a minority (I am Caucasian and my husband is Korean), and it’s good for them to see other people that look like them, and people that look nothing like them. And know that it doesn’t matter. (side note-we recently had gifted to us a “Korean” Barbie. She really looks like NJ Housewife Barbie who spent too much time in the tanning salon. Is ‘Korean’ that hard to pull off???) One of the ways I can do that is through books. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite books for kids that show them the wonderful world that they live in. And that there is no fox stalking them waiting to steal their stuff.

Rama and Sita. My kids became captivated with this story after seeing it read on Nick Jr. (I probably could have come up with something that sounded way better than that) It’s an ancient Hindu legend with princes and princesses, evil kings and monsters. It’s a book that teaches morals. And it’s beautiful.

The Story of Ferdinand. I adore this book, and it’s one of my son’s favorites. It’s about a docile bull named Ferdinand who lives in Spain, who is like no other bull around him. He likes to lie under his favorite tree and smell the flowers, while all the other bulls like to fight each other. There’s a lovely lesson here with some Spanish culture.

For me, this one’s a no-brainer for my kids. They’re just starting to understand what being Korean is, and what a great way to instill their culture in them. I recently discovered this on Amazon and have since ordered it.

Kiki and Coco in Paris. This book is responsible for my daughter’s love of all things Paris-related. She’s obsessed with the Eiffel Tower and thinks that all electrical towers are “Eiffel” towers. It’s the story of a girl named Kiki and her doll Coco who travel to Paris, and about all the places they see while they’re there. The photography  is absolutely beautiful and I just love when my daughter asks me to read her this one.

This is New York takes you on a tour of the city’s famous ethnic neighborhoods and introduces little ones to the history and culture of one of the most amazing cities in the world. Love, love, love.

Pea Boy and Other Stories from Iran. A lovely book of beautiful fairy tales from Iran. It’s truly fascinating  to see how another culture tells stories.

The Family of Man is a stunning book of photographs from countries all around the world. It’s a great way to show children just how diverse this world truly is.  Disclaimer: if you’re not prepared to explain what “boobies” are, steer clear. It gets a bit National Geographic.

The Family Book is a must for anyone whose family is “different.” If your family has two mommies, people of different races/cultures, single-parent families or anything that’s not considered traditional, this book is for you. If all children would read this book, I think  the future would be a much more accepting one. Come to think of it, we should ALL read this book.

So while I’m grateful to Dora for teaching my kids some Spanish, (they both call out “rojo!!!!!” or “verde!!!!!” at traffic lights), I really wish they’d put that crap down and stick to reading these. I don’t want their teachers to think I suck.