When I made the decision to adopt, and it was made to adopt internationally, one of the requirements was to attend a class on dealing with racism. As a newly formed interracial family, it was very likely to be possible that one or more of the issues covered in the course would come up, such as stupid questions, dating, and racism.
As happy as this time was going to make me, I had to not only think about, but learn about the potential impact that my fellow men and women, or more directly, friends and family could have on my daughters.
There are two classic questions that still come out. First, “are they sisters?” My response is always the same, “of course they are.” Let the squirm session begin. I know what is being asked. The follow up question comes, “no, I mean, are they ‘real’ sisters?” And again, I respond, “of course they are!” Then comes the look. Clearly, they think I am not understanding what I am being asked. No, I do. And it is rude. They are both my daughters. They are both obviously adopted, though I often get the comment that they have my eyes (although I am not Asian). They are sisters.
The other question, “where are they from?” And the answer is similar, I give the city and state they live in. “No, ‘where’ are they from?” And I repeat the same thing, city and state.
If these questions are relevant and necessary, there are polite ways to ask them.
Another difficult situation that has a tendency to make me squirm, is dating. And it is the actual act of dating that makes me squirm, but the lesson was about “who.” With my daughters being Asian, there is a good chance they would date someone Asian, and would I, as their parent, encourage that? Or would I suggest otherwise?
The truth is, it does not matter to me, who makes my daughters smile and laugh. As long as they are respected and treated the way that I have told them they deserved to be. And we are lucky. The school district that my daughters attend is very diverse. At last count, there were over sixty different languages that the district had to deal with. Up until this point, neither of my daughters have mentioned color of any of their friends, or of anyone. Until recently. Because they have never seen someone for the color of their skin.
As a student, I grew up in a predominantly white, let’s be honest, an all-white town. I never heard race discussed, well, because there was no reason to. There was no other race to discuss because we did not see it. My point is this. At this point, I was not a racist just because I lived in this town. I was not a racist because clearly I had not been taught to be one. And certainly, I was not born a racist.
In high school, my parents moved a lot. One of those moves, included a move to a major city. And then culture shock hit me. Not only was the school not predominantly white, I was now the “minority”, among black, Hispanics, and Asians. But still, I was not being taught to think anything other than, they were my friends. And good ones they were. There were also dates.
So when it comes to my daughters dating, and which ethnicities they may have an interest in, I felt this part of the course I was prepared for. I could go back to my concern being the squirming parts like PDA’s (personal displays of affection), fooling around, and of course heartbreak.
The final thing I was warned about with this course, was the fact, my “daughters will look different” from me. A statement that could be made by an ignorant parent, or an unwitting child at the bus stop. Made in front of me, I will just be annoyed, but in front of either of my daughters, it could be hurtful.
As I have said, I know I was not born with any racist tendencies. Neither have my daughters. If we have any at all, it is because we have been taught it. A classmate of my older daughter found out the hard way.
It was back in second grade, the bus ride home from school. The bus, instead of dropping the girls off at the corner, pulled up in front of my house. “Mr. Edelman, we had a bit of a problem. I’ve taken care of it. But I just wanted to let you know about it. Your daughter punched a kid in the nose and made him bleed.”
Obviously, there had to be more to the story, because I know my daughters would never start anything. Yes, I could already feel my pride, because I knew she was defending herself from something. I just did not know what.
“He cursed China and stuck his pinky finger up (the equivalent to the middle finger in the US). So I punched him,” in the meekest yet fiercest voice I could ever hear. It was my daughter’s first exposure to racism, a little racist in training. And the kid learned a painful lesson that day. My daughter was proud to be Chinese, but her little friend, and they remained friends after that incident, learned never to do that again. He also learned that he was taught something wrong, and racist. He was taught racism, likely by those closest to him, and it cost him. There is no way that a kid his age would have learned about the use of that particular finger associated with the Chinese.
To be clear, I do not condone violence, and I have raised my daughters not to throw the first blow. But, they will defend themselves in any shape they can, and they will.
As they have grown, they have seen how ugly our world can be. And it is confusing to them, because they have been taught otherwise, to be kind to everyone, regardless of color. I turned on the TV the other night, for us to catch a movie on one of the streaming channels. Unfortunately, the last channel that was on, was broadcasting news now instead of entertainment. And it was not good. Multiple acts of murder of Asian Americans in several locations. Just one of thousands of acts against the Asian community this short year already.
The class prepared me for the occasional ignorant comments made being a bi-racial family. But it did not prepare me for what is happening today. It is not something new, in fact, has been around for decades. Usually the ire has been employment driven with the trade deficit between the United States and China. Then Covid19 hit. And racism against the Asian community skyrocketed.
We should be intelligent enough to know, that Asians living in the United States have nothing, NOTHING to do with the creation, discovery, or transmission of Covid19. But when our nation’s leadership does absolutely nothing constructive to deal with the surging crisis other than to crack jokes and one-liners, at the expense of the Asian community, that has lit a fuse of a whole new level of hatred and anger at Asians. This is bigotry and racism. You have to recognize it and call it what it is, if you want it to stop.
I am pissed off that it appears that authorities are looking to give the racist a free pass, by saying he had a sex addiction and that it was the businesses that were being attacked. BULLSHIT! He knew there were Asian employees there and that is whey they are dead! He didn’t go to any other spas that had Caucasian workers. He went where he knew there would be Asians. That is racist!
I am scared for not just my daughters, but for all my friends who have adopted children from Asia, and of course all of my friends that are Asian. Until we recognize deal with this issue, it is only going to get worse. But I have told my daughters this. Most people are good. Those who are racist want only to blame their short comings on others, and the easiest way to do that is to blame it on others they consider inferior and easy to identify.
The first time I heard the term “kung flu,” I thought my head would explode, as several of my friends said to just “get over it, it was just a joke.” No, what do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back? A stick. That is a joke. There was absolutely no reason for it, other than stirring up a certain portion of our racist country, and it is racist. It is time to admit that.
As for my daughters, I have discouraged them from confrontations. Walk away from the racist. Do not engage. Then report the hate crime to the authorities. But make no mistake, both of my daughters have a martial arts background, and if threatened, have my permission to cripple in their own defense.
I will continue to speak out against racism in all its forms, not just against Asians, but all ethnicities and cultures. And I am not just this way for my daughters, it is who I am.
You are either racist, or anti-racist. There is no such thing as “I am not a racist.” You are either against it, or you are for it. If you are against it, then you are “anti-racist.” And if you are for it, well then…