Thursday, November 15, 2007

All Chinese people live in Chinatown.....right?

I don't always like to admit that my seven year-old teaches me important lessons on a regular basis. After all, I am the parent-shouldn't I be omnipotent?

Apparently, not.

The other day, my gal was standing with three boys watching an adult take a tennis lesson. The boys began speculating about the man's ethnicity. After testing out several theories, one boy said, "he must be Chinese." His buddy replied, "nah, it can't be all Chinese people live in Chinatown."

I was about to come unglued when my daughter calmly said, "That is not true. All Chinese people don't live in Chinatown." The other boys looked at her, like she had given them winning lottery numbers and said to their friend, "she's right, that doesn't make any sense. People can live anywhere."

We talked about the exchange in the car on the way home. Showing my anger at the entire situation, I asked her why she didn't tell the boy that his comment was just plain stupid. "Mom, calling him stupid isn't the right thing to do. Stupid is a bad word and he wouldn't listen after that."


I actually learned two important lessons from her yesterday:
1: A simple factual, calm response to ridiculous statements can be more powerful than an angry, 'in your face' response (which unfortunately is my style.
2: As much as we want to make folks understand that bias and bullying are learned behaviors, our responsibility as parents means that we have to equip our kids with the tools to handle things on their own. At the end of the day, our job is to make ourselves obsolete.

Sometimes, it takes our children to remind us and/or teach us the very lessons that we are trying to teach them.

What did you learn from your kids today?
With Respect,

1 comment:

Maxine Lu said...

Your daughter Deb is the best!

Thank you so much for your previous post on "Chinese Auctions" and this post.

I am a Chinese American. Upon moving to Long Island, I too wanted to know about the Chinese objects at the Chinese Auction. I was so sad to realize what it really meant. As a Chinese American, I feel awful every time I see the term. It is used frequently here on Long Island.

Thank you for taking the time to explain the term to parents.

Here is another comment from a reader of the New York Times:

March 12, 2006
With Certain Words, Watch Your Mouth

To the Editor:

It's wonderful that auctions have become a popular form of fund-raising (''The Cause Is Good, and So Is the Auction,'' Feb. 19). But organizers should give pause before using the seemingly harmless term ''Chinese auction,'' as there is nothing culturally Chinese about raffling baskets.

It is believed that the term arose in the late 19th century, when discrimination against Chinese immigrants was prevalent. During this period the Chinese Exclusion Act was instituted, barring Chinese immigrants from entering our country. ''Chinese auction'' is also known as a ''penny raffle'' or ''chance auction.'' At the time, Chinese laborers were paid low wages, and Chinese came to mean ''cheap'' in American slang. Because the raffle tickets are inexpensive, perhaps this led to the characterization ''Chinese auction.''

Moreover, a derogatory term that developed in the frontier West was ''Chinaman's chance.'' This meant a person had no chance at all, like the Chinese immigrants who had no protections under the law.

Fund-raisers should therefore consider whether ''Chinese auction'' is an outdated term. Let us exercise caution in the words we use so that they may not inadvertently invoke the ethnic bias of an earlier time.

Randy Young Keady
Rockville Centre

I am so grateful to your daughter, her questions and to you and your answers.

Best Wishes to you and your family.
Maxine Lu