Thursday, October 14, 2010

Racism or just Parental Anxiety

We recently went away for a long weekend.

It was me, my wife and our son. My mother-in-law went to stay with her son for a week.

We travelled up north and had a really great time. We drove up the coast casually, taking our time and seeing the sights.

We finally got to the Gold Coast in Queensland, and this part of the trip was our son's favourite.

He got to go to Movie World, Sea World and Wet and Wild Water World.

All was going remarkably well. My wife and I were in a great mood, and really attentive to each other. Our focus however was on our child, and we both marveled at the joy of simply being parents, and spending quality time with our one and only child.

Well, all was great but for one incident, that for some reason made a huge impact on me emotionally, but did not register at all with my wife.

Whilst we were at Wet and Wild Water World, there was a section where most of the young kids and parents would congregate, which involved a huge water feature with a large pirate bucket that would fill up with water, and periodically dump the water on all the young kids below.

It was quite contagious hearing the laughter and enjoyment of all the young kids running around and screaming everytime they would get wet.

It was especially wonderful watching my young boy, who is typically quite shy, run around with free abandon, completely enjoying himself and engaging with other children of his age.

Well at this point a large blow-up ball entered the scene, and along with the water features, the children started kicking this ball around.

At one point the ball landed near my son, and he prepared to kick it, jokingly going back and forth as if he were about to kick the ball, but pulling back at the last minute.

Everyone present found this quite amusing, especially my wife and I. We were also really proud of our son for showing the confidence to play-act as he was, in front of what was effectively a group of strangers.

Well, everyone was laughing at our boy's antics but for one other child, another boy roughly the same age as our boy, about 8 years old.

He impatiently began calling out to my son to kick the ball.

What stunned me was the language he used.

The boy, as if to taunt my son, began calling out:

"Hey China, kick the ball! Kick the ball Chopsticks!"

He repeated this taunt one more time, before my son finally kicked the ball.

My son completely ignored the comment. It simply didn't register with my son. I am not sure if this was because my son didn't hear what was said or how it was said, or if my boy simply selected to ignore it.

My wife on the other hand heard what was said, but did not even look at me to signal concern.

It left me wondering whether my reaction was an over-reaction.

But what I felt was remarkably strong and overwhelming. I even felt completely, as embarrassed as I am to say this now, to approach the boy, a young 8 year old boy, and abuse him for talking that way to my son.

Luckily I held my composure, but expressed my feelings to my wife soon after.

She said she did not consider it racism, it was just a silly comment from a young child.

maybe she was right. Maybe the fact that I am a fair-skinned European has somehow mis-calibrated my sense of what constitutes racism, and what may simply be a simple reckless comment.

I guess as parent I am programmed to be over-protective of my son, but incidents like this leave me feeling anxious about the next time that this happens, and if it is a more serious incident.

I want to be there to always protect my son, but of course that is unrealistic.

It is one of the burdens of having a racially mixed child I guess.


Annia said...

I understand you, as I am also that kind of parent who wants to protect my daughter at all times. My daughter is such a petite and small child, who at 7 y.o. is always a subject of attention for most people. Sometimes I hear negative comments but I simply ignore them and assure my daughter that for me, she is the prettiest and most special kid.

George said...

I would be more embarassed being the parents of the other kid. Yes, it's a bit racist but coming from a kid his age it probably has to do more with the fact that kids are mean. Kids will pick on the the short kid, fat kid, shy kid weak kid... you name it. Yes, your kid and many other kids will face being picked on. As a parent myself, I know I would want to jump in and clobber that little btat, but you can't always be there. In America these days there is probably an extreme political correctness going on in schools. A kid would be sent to the principle then to counceling if a teacher catches them saying that. I'm not sure that's the right thing either. Just always be there for your kid, that's all we can do. (my opinion) Good luck.

What do you like/dislike most about Chinese women?