How to handle prejudice — kid’s edition

When I showed my kids my last post they said I should write about some of their experiences.

I should post a picture here of my kids. I know they don’t look like your typical Mennonites, but neither do they look very asian. But, yes, I’m biased and I see them every day, so I could easily be missing something.

First there is the silly, thoughtless racism. Kids are still saying “Ching Chang Chong” to anyone they think of as Chinese. The first time a kid said this to my wife I was surprised. She gave them quite a tongue-lashing, though. I’m surprised that my son reports kids’ say this to him. This is, as he said, just ignorance.

Some people are simply curious. My 7-year-old daughter says a boy asked his brother to ask her if she was Chinese. This isn’t really prejudice, just kind of cute curiosity.

One guy really annoys Ginger with his stupid, racist comments like bugging her about Miss May, a Chinese substitute teacher as if Ginger knows this person’s personal details. Even though the school offers Chinese as a spoken language (what one of her friends called “chink” accidentally before correcting herself) for students to learn, some still ask her if she can speak “Asian” — as if it were one language. They also think that my children all go to the same church with the other Asian children.

Which is weird because even though we have a Mennonite background and name, we attend a Greek church.

I think a lot of this comes down to tribalism. Just by getting married, Alexis and I haven’t stuck with the tribe. And when we started going to a Greek church, that was yet another non-tribal activity. In a small town like ours, People aren’t used to those who don’t stick to their tribe’s customs, and they’re curious and (sometimes) rude as a result.

12 thoughts on “How to handle prejudice — kid’s edition”

  1. Ah, this kind of little-white-town prejudice is so pathetically typical. 🙂

    I get regularly accused of prejudice by my husband but I like to think I’m more broadminded. If I saw your kids in passing at my kids’ music lessons, I would assume they were smart, excellent musicians, and probably fresh from their chess club meet or supplementary math class. 🙂 I get chastised for remarking that so-and-so is probably good at what he does because he’s Jewish [“one of the chosen people”].

    Re: being different, it is difficult to strike a balance between my horror of being just one of the crowd and my fear of standing out. 🙂 To not belong can be kind of lonely. I can either not care or find other anomalies to hang out with.
    But what if this is what everyone else is thinking and I’m just one of the crowd? Oh no…

    Wonder if your kids would get fewer comments if they looked “all white” but the girls wore homemade floor length calico dresses and head coverings to school?

  2. Probably same comments. In Indiana the non-conservative dressers called the head covereings “helmets” and the teens have tossed rocks and stones as they pass buggies causing serious damage and at least one death. Same spirit of “you’re different so I do this.”
    When we moved south we heard a LOT of pre-conceived notions about “yankiees.” When we go north, we hear pre-conceived notions about southerners.when I lived in Utah and was a minority (not a Mormon) I heard pre-conceived ideas both ways. The teenage boy in our tiny church wondered “do non-Mormon girls have hope chests?” When I lived in southern Arizona and had my first Mexican meal, I absolutely rejected it. Now I am planning one for dinner.
    Looking back I realize I have been blessed to have had so many different cultural experiences, but I know that I can get just as “us vs. them” sometimes.
    When we traveled in Indonesia and Taiwan I really felt like a THEM. One big tall very pale faced white woman. Joseph watched and said people were losing their stride staring at me too long as they walked. We literally stayed in the car while the Indonesian escorts went in and arranged for hotel rooms … otherwise the skin tax sent the price up significantly.

  3. Tara, Alexis says to tell you that you are absolutly right about the “supplementary math class.” Some sterotypes are sterotypes because they’re true.

    And “helmets”? Most Mennonite girls seem to be pretty evenly split between not wearing anything, wearing a doily and wearing the funky white bonnets. Ginger says there aren’t any wearers of head coverings at her school, so they must all attend one of the Mennonite schools around here if they wear one.

  4. Oh, and Ginger wants me to point out that “Hershberger” is also a Jewish name so the first Hershberger’s may have been Jews who converted (that was pretty common back in the 16th and 17th centuries).

    But that only means we can expect a lot more from our kids. After all they’ve got both Jewish and Asian heritage.

  5. Doilies – one item I didn’t mind leaving behind when we stopped attending a Plymouth Brethren church. On the other hand, I see that site is marketing itself to Jewish women. Just knew they looked better made than usual…

  6. The ‘helmets’ were the type with the strings tying under the chin, not the doily. And probably you don’t have any in the public schools, especially the high school since 8th grade is the top grade usually allowed … another tribal requirement.
    Better than the “no girls in school” rules that have and still do reign in some areas.

  7. I did used to work at a Manassas, VA 7-Eleven with Chang (store manager), Chan, Chen, and Mr. Chun. People thought I was joking when I told them about it.

  8. As the years go on, more prejudiced and racist remarks are added to my mental list of rude statements. For example, the racist kids on the bus who squint and pull their eyes to mock Asians. The countless kids who seem to think that all Asians are Chinese, That one girl who said “Wait, is your dad Chinese, or is it your mom?” , The girl at lunch who squinted her eyes and said “Look, I’m Chinese, ching chong ching chong” (I’m watching you Samantha) and last but definitely not least, the kids who comment on my eyes. All of these racist comments are quite annoying, but they don’t bring me down. I still love my Asian heritage and know that these kids will not know the joys of rice and “ethnic” food until they are in their mid 20s and regularly Instagramming about how much they love their Starbucks #don’ttalktomeuntilihavehadmycoffee . So everyone, raise your bottle of ramune or yakult and raise a toast to everyone who appreciates diversity (especially those who don’t mock it).

    1. Lemme just mention that the “thoughtless racism” tells you a little about how they were raised.

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