Monday, November 2, 2009

To Rant or Not to Rant

I came home yesterday, fatigued, drained, spent from my job. I tutor as a profession. I am pretty damn good at what I do, but it leaves me extremely tired and sometimes irate. Never because of the children, but somehow the commuting and being away from Adele makes me more sensitive, much to the dismay of Alex waiting for me at home.

He always cooks me dinner. Last night; an homage to my heritage, he cooked kimchi marinated tilapia, steamed kale, spicy squid, and rice. Some of you may have just gagged, but I love this stuff. I love how Korean food makes you TASTE, feel, sweat, and really experience food. Fortunately, so does Alex. He not only appreciates it, but he cooks it for me, following my dad's detailed instructions over the phone. I am blessed. Somehow, in this cosmos of amorous pairing, God paired me with a Southern Scots-Irish man who knows how to make kimchi infused anything.

Mid-meal, he casually tells me about his day, all the fun activities that the twosome did while I was gone. Most of the events were ordinary, but he said one thing that caught me off guard.

'So, a little girl went up to Adele today', Alex begins.
'At the park?' I mumble, my mouth ungracefully filled with food.
'Yeah,' he replies, apparently not disgusted at the sight of me ravaging my food.
'Did they play?' I prod.
'No. Guess what she said?' he says casually.
'What?' He's peaked my interest.
'She said, 'She has squinty eyes!' and pointed to Adele.'
'WHAT the fuck?' I say as I almost choke on my spicy kale.
'Are you serious?' I probe.
'Yeah, but she's just a kid.'
'I don't fucking care.' Fury emanates from my mouth.
'You should've said something,' I chide.
'What was I gonna say? Her dad was right there,' he defends himself.
'Oh my god, he wasn't mortified. He didn't say anything?!'
'No. I mean, we made eye contact. He was probably embarrassed.'
'I bet. He didn't say anything?' My liberal ass, California-raised self can't believe his nonchalance.
'Well, maybe he talked to her later,' Alex always gives people the benefit of a doubt which is nice but sometimes annoying.
'If you live in Manhattan, you better have that talk before the kid is school age,' I continue to fume.

I understand that it wasn't intended to be mean. I understand that the situation may have been awkward, but as a parent of a mixed-race child, I demand that parents wake up and clue their children in to the various differences that exist among us.

Growing up, I am haunted by a couple memories. Most of my childhood is filled with the usual warm, fuzzy feeling that one conjures when nostalgia overcomes them. All my haunted memories come from racism, usually from children. As we get older, we learn to either celebrate our differences or mask our intolerance. From my experience, children often imitate what they learn at home.

Racism at asians is usually directed at the eyes. There are plenty of psychologists and scientists who could point to why this is the case, but no matter, it's always directed there. Wake up world! Asian eyes are different, yes, but they are beautiful. Please put those fingers away, the fingers that stretch the corners of rounded eyes to mock the beautiful almond shape of much of the world.

If Adele were a little older, she would have known what was going on. She would have understood the connotations of the scene. For that, I am grateful. She has yet to delve into human habits of categorization and simple ignorance. For her sake, and for any other child who does not look like she walked out of the pages of Aryan Vogue, please educate your children, tell them what it means to be different, watch them grow into aware, kind, compassionate individuals who think before they say.

2 comments: said...

It's not just that parents don't teach the beauty of everyone, it's that kids innocently out their parents for their prejudices sometimes. Beyond teaching kids to see the beauty in everyone of us and our myriad incarnations and expressions of this, parents themselves must learn to see with clearer eyes.

Oscar Wilde said something to the effect, "If you haven't seen the beauty in something you haven't seen that thing at all."

Namaste, Bruce

Jo Park said...

That, sir, is very true indeed. Working with many children throughout the week, I walk into different households and watch how differently the parents' views filter down to the children. Interesting. This is especially so when these children are cousins, physically related but brought up completely differently.

Oscar Wilde....genius.