Oldest is 10, nearly 11 and as much as I'd like to protect her from the ugliness of racism, she has not been immune. In fact, all 3 of my girls have had kids pull chinky eyes at them or make up sing songy Ching Chong words, not unlike Rosie O'Donnell's sensitive use of the Chinese language.
I tell my kids to stand their ground and to let these kids know that they are acting in an inappropriate and hurtful manner. And then I ask my kids not to let these actions hurt them, but to be proud of who they are and where they came from. But no matter what I say, it is unrealistic to believe that there will be no impact to them. I can see it even now. When we go somewhere and they notice that they are the only minority present, they are reluctant to bring attention to themselves, aware that they are different. Small, subtle things that bother me because I know why they do it. Because I did the same when I was young.
So yesterday, Oldest came over to me and asked me if we could speak in private.
Oldest - I read your blog post today and it made me cry.
Me - I'm sorry honey.
Oldest - You said that as long as I study hard and get a good education, then I can be anything I want, but that's not true is it.
Me - It is true, why would you say otherwise?
Oldest - Because when I grow up I want to be an actor, but how can I when they won't give me a chance? If they'd rather have whites be Asian characters then what is left for me?
Me - (speechless for a moment)This can change. If enough of us believe it's wrong and are willing to speak up, then we can change this.
Oldest - But you said to make it more relatable, they chose whites instead of Asians. I don't understand. What does that mean?
Me - It means they think the audience will be more sympathetic to and like the characters better if they are portrayed by whites instead of Asians.
Oldest - That's stupid. I watch Wizards of Waverly Place and iCarly and they are all white but I like them just fine. And True Jackson has a black girl as the main character and I like her too. Why would they think people wouldn't like Asians especially when the setting is all Asian?
Me - It's because they don't realize that what they are doing is racist.
Oldest - But some people are saying it's not racist and that it's stupid to be upset about this. My friend said who cares if there aren't any Asian actors in the leads, she's going to see it anyway.
Me - What do you think?
Oldest - I think its wrong. There aren't a lot of movies with Asians in them and I was really looking forward to this. Ever since Miley Cyrus did that bad chinky eye picture, I've realized that there aren't any famous Asian kids in movies and television. That's why I want to be an actor, so there can be more of us out there. But this makes me think it was just a stupid dream.
Me - No honey, never think that. You have to believe that the world can change and you have to believe that you can make a difference. Every single little thing a person does can make a difference. When people shrug their shoulders and say "what's the big deal" or "who cares" or "we can't do anything about it" their non-action has consequences. They are helping to continue racism. But every time someone speaks up and says "Hey that's not right," they are a ripple that reaches out to another and another until finally there are too many waves and people have to stand up and make a change.
Oldest - So you don't think it's a stupid dream?
Me - Absolutely not.
Oldest - Ok Mom, I believe you. I won't give up on my dream then.
Me - And I won't let you.