To the Mother of the Boy Who Bullied My Daughter
A Glimpse into Racism in America
I just realized who you are. I just realized that our younger daughters are in the same class together. I just realized that we have muddled through classroom parties and field trips sharing like stories of how we both moved from different states, in the same month, 4 years ago and how we both like comfortable shoes. I wonder at what point you realized who I am?
I have counted back numerous weeks since your passing smile in the hall turned to icy glares. I talked myself into assuming that you were just having a day, or a week, or a stressful stretch….
…Maybe stressful like it was for us 3 years ago when our eldest children shared a classroom. It wasn’t until this year, that my daughter has begun to show signs of her old self. Your son has finally stopped making snide comments in the lunchroom. He has finally stopped seeking her out to blame. They no longer share a classroom.
She no longer comes home every day with a different question…“Do my eyes really look that bad?” “Do they really look like this?” “Are all Japanese people good at math?” “What is a Chink?” “Are “doi-ng, doi-ng, dong, ding” real Chinese words?” “Can I call you my real mom, or are you my step-mom?” “I wish you were my real mom.” “Do you think we could find my real mom?” “Can we move back to where we used to live, no one there cared about how I look?” “Can we move to China? No one there would think I look weird……”
There are many more of course…six months’ worth. Every day, I would cry with her. Every day, I would attempt to arm her with a coping mechanism…”tell him to learn his Asian countries,” “tell him if he wants to speak Chinese, to take a class,” “scoff at them like the football player in Napoleon Dynamite,” “don’t look at him when he calls your name,” “ignore him,” “ignore them,” “ignore him,” “ignore them….” But honestly in my heart of hearts, I knew all of it was pointless in the face of an 8-year-old peer who had rallied more than half of the boys in the class.
I can only pretend to understand her isolation.
She still has no friends to speak of. Says she doesn’t need them and that she understands how weird it would be for a blonde girl, whose family is from Europe, to hang around with someone who looks like her….
At first, I blamed myself. I blamed my naivety. I blamed my husband’s past employer for laying people off. I blamed God. I blamed my real-estate agent for her obligation to be unbiased when telling us about school districts. I blamed ignored paperwork my adoption agency sent out called “Why to Avoid Living in Small Towns.”
I had grown up in a small town. We had a handful of kids from different ethnicities. I do not ever remember anyone harassing them about the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes. Ever. I did not even know that racism existed until my father moved to Atlanta when I was 13. I visited one summer. A boy on the playground called me a “cracker.” I laughed at him “Eeeewww,” I said “What am I, a saltine…?” My father laughed. He told me what being a “cracker” really meant. I was embarrassed. Embarrassed to be white. I could not even fathom how anyone could make fun of another person based on ethnicity, an attribute you never get to choose.
However, I did not blame you. I do not blame you. Even amid icy glares and up-and-down looks, I cannot bring myself to blame you. I ponder your side of our story? Maybe you grew up that way? Or maybe that is the one thing you would change about your husband? Or maybe your son had troubles where you lived before and you really wanted a clean slate? Or maybe you were as shocked as I would be if one of my children treated another person so harshly? Or maybe….I really don’t know. Or maybe…I really cannot even begin to fathom.
That is why I chose to write this. I wonder if you know my truth? I wonder if you ever ponder my side, my daughter’s side. I wonder if you know that I had contacted teachers, counselors, principles for six months before my eight-year-old daughter stood up in the middle of that class and told her peers she would no longer take it. Six months, before my daughter stopped playing the victim role handed her.
I did not just contact the teachers, the counselors, the principles….I pleaded with them….”Address the whole school in the Anti-bullying Rally next week”…. “We don’t cover racism as bullying.”…. ”Anonymously address the class, take a no-tolerance stance”…. “We feel that this is a non-issue”…..“Talk to the boys, take them aside and say it will not be tolerated”…. “She needs to learn to ignore them.”
“Alright Darlin’ Ive got an idea, we’ll call it “Operation No More.” I’ll pay you $20, a whole $20 bill, if the next time one of them starts saying anything mean, you stand up in the middle of class, no matter what is happening, no matters whose class, and say as loud as you can without screaming “so and so is being racist and I will not tolerate it anymore!” Practice…Raaay-cist, Raaay-cist. I will pay you $20 each time you do it…” $20 goes along way when you are 8. It only took once.
Honestly, I felt conflicted that your son ended up getting “the first write-up I ever got” as he pointed out to my daughter many times in the lunch line the following year. But you know what, he stopped. He stopped whispering her name and pulling up the sides of his eyes past his eyebrows. He stopped rallying his friends. He stopped telling her to wear her glasses “‘cause that’s what Japanese people do.” He stopped. For the entire rest of that year.
Honestly, I hope for a truce. I hope we can discuss this someday. I hope we can sit down and talk. Talk about how your son was having a bad year. Or how he had horrible influences at his previous school. Or maybe we could talk about the schools role in it all. How they ignored me for six months. How they like to sweep dirt under rugs. How I was out of options. How my daughter was spiraling into self-pity. And how being a victim was starting to taint her every action.
Still, I refuse to blame you. My kids do things that horrify me regularly. I do not know what events led up to that year of you and your son’s life, so I refuse to judge you. I will instead hope that it was a fluke, a bad moment, the aftermath of a bad year. And I will pray, that it is not at all, how you have taught and are teaching your children to treat anyone, ever.
You Know Who
Being Asian in America-One Man's Experience
- Being Asian-American between White Privilege and Black Disadvantage — Medium
I’m picking a side in this battle. A side somewhere you don’t want to be.