A local news reporter said an incredibly stupid thing today on the morning broadcast, and in reading the tweets and Facebook posts, you would think she was the biggest racist on the planet. There are comments calling for her immediate termination, referring to her as a racist (or worse), and maligning her character. Maybe she is a racist, but it’s highly doubtful because by all accounts, she and her family are very good people who are not racist in any way. Although her comment was extremely ignorant, it doesn’t appear to be malicious or intentional, yet many tweet that it doesn’t matter.
I know I may draw some negative backlash for even saying that, but this called is called “Inside Jen’s Mind” so I’ll say what I think. And what I think is that racism is a funny thing, something we are always looking for in everything. It’s not funny-haha, but funny-strange, because it’s often assumed but not always true, though it is always divisive.
First let me tell you a bit about me. I was adopted from Korea when I was around the age of two. Abandoned by my own parents, I was adopted by a Caucasian couple who couldn’t have children of their own, neither of them having a racist bone in their body. My dad taught me that racism was stupid and that people of every race could be jerks, and he was right. I remember when I would come home after someone made fun of my race and instead of getting upset, Dad would say “They make fun of you because you can take it. If they’re picking on you, then they’re leaving someone else alone.” So I made that my mantra, knowing that I was strong enough to take it, even though I was a small little girl with slanted eyes and olive skin who didn’t look like anyone else I knew.
I went to school in an era when they were integrating the schools to ensure there was diversity. It didn’t matter much to me, because I had probably met two people in my entire lifetime that even slightly resembled me. So instead of going to school five minutes from my house to go to school with kids that didn’t look like me, I was bussed thirty minutes from my house to go to school with kids who didn’t look like me. Diversity didn’t mean much to me at that time. I was as diverse as it got, neither black, white, or hispanic and there were many times when I was out-of-place and felt very alone. I would love to tell you that all of my experiences were positive ones, but they just weren’t.
People were ugly, adults and children alike. A relative who I never really knew asked my mom if I was going to have surgery to ‘have my eyes fixed,’ and most of the time people just assumed I was “Chinese.” Often-times kids would make strange ignorant noises that were supposed to resemble Asian people speaking, and the questions like “What are you?” were asked often, even into adulthood. When I was little, I used to feel my eyes beginning to slant even more when faced with those situations, unable to hide the fact that I just didn’t look like everyone else. Today they call that “bullying” but back then it was just “kids being mean” and I knew I would have to face it all of my life because there was no surgery to made my eyes ‘less slanted.’
Looking back, I think Dad saw something in me that I had yet to see in myself, because I was strong enough to take it, and I did. Aside from elementary school, those events rarely drove me to tears, and most kids chose to pick on the girl with the lisp and the unibrow instead of the girl with the slanted eyes. As I grew older, kids weren’t as mean to me, and by that time I had made enough friends that I was usually left alone.
When I was growing up my family was white, my friends were a mixture of black, white, hispanic, Asian, and my best friend from seventh grade through high school was black. My race wasn’t important and it didn’t make me special, better, or worse, than anyone else. Nobody cared that I was Korean and I found myself finally fitting in and finding my place in the world.
But the world is very different now in countless ways. It’s more hypocritical and full of hatred which I think makes it difficult for us to look beyond our outward appearance, because our differences are constantly being highlighted in the media. The social climate is uptight and unforgiving, and nobody seems to be able to laugh at themselves and we are obligated to be offended by everything that happens in the world. We assume everything is meant to be offensive, so we oblige. I realized the world was changing when it became taboo to call an Asian person ‘Oriental’ or when the term “politically correct” became gospel, rather than policy. Instead of coming together, we push apart, expecting and waiting to be pissed off about something… anything.
So says the Asian girl.
The scars of being teased and made fun of because I was different, certainly run deep. You can’t imagine what it’s like to have someone say horrible and ugly things to you just because of how you look, unless it’s actually happened to you. As a child and even as an adult, I’ve had people of all shapes, sizes, color, race, and nationality call me names, make ignorant comments, make gestures, assumptions, and even make their eyes slanted so they would look like me. But I call that ignorance and stupidity, and I refuse to let it change my heart or make me a prisoner. If you know me, you know that I’m not above telling someone to “screw off” if the situation calls for it, and I believe racism is one of those situations that certainly calls for it.
My youngest child came home from school after being “bullied” by another child, larger and older than him. My youngest, is my mini-me and not only looks identical to me when I was younger, but is just as stubborn and just as apt stand up for himself. What really broke my heart about the situation is that the other child jumped right to calling him a “little Chinese boy” as a way to put him down and told him to “Go back to China where he came from.” It brought back flashbacks from my childhood, but it also made me incredibly angry not just because my youngest is my baby, but because this other child obviously doesn’t know my son at all. My son is laugh-out-loud funny, irreverent, inappropriate, and incredibly charming. He’s the boy who will break the girls hearts because he won’t be tied down. He loves to play games, technology, and electronics of every kind, and did I mention that he’s funny as Hell? But this other boy just saw him as that “little Chinese boy” and I thought how sad it is that the world hasn’t really changed, after all.
Instead, we live in a world where not only are we still incredibly ignorant and say stupid, stupid things. Do I think that little boy is a racist? Absolutely not. I do think he’s ignorant, and while I hope his parents set him straight, I’m also realistic and understand that he may get that from home. Yet, I’m not offended by the situation and we’ve talked about it with my son because I’m sure it’s not the last time he’ll ever hear something like that again. I’m not teaching him to be tolerant of ignorant behavior, but hopefully he’ll learn to just see things and people for what they are. Hopefully it will motivate him to be his best, regardless of the stupidity that may surround him.
I’m not naive and I know racism exists and is alive and well and toxic in our world. But I don’t believe that we live in a world where everything and everyone is racially motivated. I do believe we live in a world full of moronic, stupid, ignorant, idiots who say the most ridiculous things and I think it is important to differentiate between the two.
We are living in a world that lacks levity because we are entirely too sensitive, and all that ends up doing is dividing us and breeding contempt, and more hatred. As a society, we are always looking for a scapegoat, an answer to our problems but the easy answer isn’t always the right one. We need to stop and learn to see things for what they are. Racism isn’t always so obvious, isn’t always so black and white, and in simplified terms I think Webster’s still gets it right.
a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
Rodney King~”Can we all just get along?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sONfxPCTU0
The Beatles~All You Need is Love https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydfH7iuLR0I
Marvin Gaye~What’s Going On https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydfH7iuLR0I