My daughters and I have been enjoying our Summer visit with each other. Just as I have done their whole lives, I try to work with them educationally, with outreach, and of course fun. They get a little of each. Yesterday was one of the “fun” days, or at least it was supposed to be.
I decided to take my daughters to a pottery studio to let them try something new. Of course, my rule is, do not expect them to do something that I am not willing to do so also. But with fair warning, when it comes to art, I have difficulties even drawing a stick person. My hopes would be, that the pieces my daughters were working on, would make anyone not pay any attention to the monstrosity that I was working on.
It was a typical sunny day, with no school, so my idea was not unique as there were other families there as well. There were two sets of fathers with his kids, and a mother with her kids. About an hour in, a father walked in with four young girls, one his own daughter, probably around ten years old. He set everyone up at a table with paints, and pieces, and then informed them, that he would be back in a while. Apparently, he is a multi-tasker as he told them that he was going to “work out” while they are painting and will return.
Well, he did return. And it soon became obvious that the only work out he got was an arm curl lifting some form of drink. He wreaked of alcohol and cigarettes, and his demeanor had changed from when he dropped the girls off. Paying him no mind after the smelly cloud evaporated from our table, I went back to my “project” and my daughters continued with theirs.
Not hearing how the conversation started, the father stood up, with one of the children’s pieces and yelled out, “what, is everything made in China?”
I imagine this is how incidents start that are now becoming a regular occurrence on Facetime and YouTube. His voice caught my attention, but unsure exactly what he said, or prompted it, I put my brush down, and looked up. He was approaching a table that had a woman and older son at it. So I figured he was just some obnoxious ass showing off for someone he may have known. But he walked by her and continued toward the shelves of unpainted ceramic items and began to lift each piece looking underneath for identification where they were made.
I now realize, this father is a racist bigot, and came back from his “workout” with some liquid courage in him. My attention squarely focused on him, and for what may come out of his mouth next, or worse, any actions, I hear a softer voice of concern speak out, “Daddy, STOP IT!” The man’s daughter had obviously seen this play out before, and clearly been affected by it.
I was not the only one to notice this jerk, as other parents had stopped what they were doing as well. But I was the only one with Asian children. I could feel my adrenaline pick up. My daughters are of Asian descent, and my eyes give off the appearance of being Asian as well, though unfortunately I am not. I am now focused on this father, and what his next words or actions might be. Then I feel a sharp pain in my left shin. My daughter, also very aware it seems of the situation, had noticed my protective glare, and had kicked me under the table to snap out of the zone I was in.
And I know why she did it too. My daughters are very proud of their heritage, although if you do not point it out, they are just my daughters. But if you do point it out, then it best be complimentary in nature.
Many years ago, I believe my oldest daughter was in second grade, a boy on her bus made the unwise choice to make a stupid comment about China, and without thinking about it, she reacted with a backhand that not only surprised everyone around her, but gave the little racist-in-training a bloody nose and a lesson. Though I was proud of my daughter for sticking up for herself, more importantly did not provoke anyone, had she been a bit older, she may have responded a bit more tactfully. Aside from that, I had been running for school board at the time, and one of my platforms was dealing with bullying. This was going to be a situation I was going to need to deal with.
Back when my daughters were adopted, I was given a book, on learning how to deal with situations concerning mixed ethnicity families. I read it, but never really gave it any thought in the 21st century, that I was going to have to be dealing with these issues anymore, especially given the racially mixed area that we lived. Today, where I live, I know that racism exists yet. I also know that because of a certain section of our society, and with the support of social media platforms, that racist bigotry is in fact becoming mainstream, more prevalent than ever.
So many things went through my mind yesterday, and to be honest, in 2018, there is absolutely no reason, that an asshole, probably twenty years my junior, should have any racial hatred. Yet here we were. Protect my daughters from this monster, whether from his words or actions. Trying to figure the balance so as not to be tolerant or complicit, because that is what enables bigotry to escalate, and I did not want to escalate the situation, I removed my glare in his direction and continued what we were doing.
There will be some who will protest my inaction, and to be fair, there is a part of me that feels it would have been better for my daughters to witness how I would shut out and shut down this racist. And perhaps if I were alone, I might have reacted differently. But my priority was protecting my daughters from any more of his hatred.
We all finished our projects shortly after, and went for lunch. And as we often do, we talked about what had happened. I got the kick under the table not because I was prepared to defend my daughters, but my daughter, felt sorry for his daughter, who was clearly embarrassed by her father’s bigotry. We talked about the erroneous ways people think about others with different ethnicities and why. It was just supposed to be some painting fun. It turned out to be so much more.