I really didn’t think I would be so deeply affected; after all we discuss bias, stereotyping, prejudice, and racism fairly often in this family. I also teach a class on transracial parenting to waiting and adoptive parents several times each month. A large section of that class addresses the position from which white parents parent—that of “whiteness,” of privilege, of having little to no life experience of overt racism directed their way.
Mark and I scheduled an early “date night” out. More of an educational evening for transracial parents, if you will… We planned on attending the workshop “When Hate Hits You: Dealing with Anti-Asian Sentiment,” put on by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), “the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in theUnited States. The JACL monitors and responds to issues that enhance or threaten the civil and human rights of all Americans and implements strategies to effect positive social change, particularly to the Asian Pacific American community.”
The workshop began with a brief overview of the Asian American history. I recalled much of the history, having studied it in high school and college. Although I had been bothered about what had happened, I was removed from the events. Now, years later, I sat with my husband revisiting this history from a different perspective—that of a parent of Asian daughters.
The material in the PowerPoint presentation was not what I would describe as graphic, but the images, words and stories that were shared were powerful, eliciting alarm from me. Tears followed and I struggled to swallow them in the room full of mostly Asian adults. I was choking down the hot paralyzing fear I had for my daughters.
It was pointed out that recessions and economic turndowns are often the catalysts that cause people to scapegoat others. People find themselves unemployed and they look for someone to blame. Such was the case of Vincent Chin, a watershed case for the Asian American community. We are witnessing this again, with the push for sweeping illegal immigration reform, primarily targeted at Hispanics (the race profile that encompasses my youngest).
Even though I have been educating my kids about bias, stereotyping, prejudice, and racism, preparing them for the injuries that will likely happen, I can not control what and when the incident(s) will happen. The workshop also underscored that I have a great deal more educating to do with my kids and with the parents I work with.
I liken arming your child to deal with racism to preparing them to drive. You send your child to drivers ed and you also spend countless hours with them, talking about the myriad of responsibilities related to driving. But, don’t forget; there’s “the other guy.” The unknown person and you never know where he’s going to come from, if he will cross the center line or run a red light and crash into your child, harming them, or worse. We parents need to keep talking about that “other guy.” …And praying he never shows up.