kids in park yelling "hey Chinese boy" to my 5 year old - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 07-19-2011, 08:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Yesterday I took my kids to the state park playground, which is next to a large campground, and picnic area, most of the kids are from out of town, anyway I'm american of Irish euro descent nd my kid's dad is Japanese. The boy my 5 year-old son started to ply with was aboout 9 or so and was African-American, after a little while he asked DS "are you Chinese?" Ds said "No, i'm Japanese and English" I think he says that because he see's the difference in language rather than race. so they play some more and the kid starts calling him Chinese boy, and yelling it while playing tag, the other two girls age 5 and 11 starting calling him that too. I called out he's Japanese not Chinese! they kept it up and i walked over to where DS was playing and said "we don't have to stay here and play if people aren't being nice....the kids could hear what I said, Ds said he wanted to still play They kept saying it and I said we don't have to play with people who are being racist, the 10 year old girl said, i didn't mean to be i said, I understand but it hurts people's feelings when you say stuuf like that." i had noticed the girl's Grandpa had an accent and seemed to be a native speaker of a language other than English, I said, asked where is your grampa form? She said he's from here, but he's Italian, I said how would you feel if people yelled at you Italion girl? . I was not mean or mad when i talked to her because i knew whe wasn't rying to be mean but was following what the other kid was doing. Do you think this was too much on my part? I asked my son if he felt good that I stepped in or he'd rather i didn't, he said he was glad i did. I wanted to let him know he doesn't have to put up with it though and thought by calmly questioning the girl I could show an example of how to stand up for himself in a non-threatening way, he is still 5 though, any ideas on a better way to handle situations like these?? The girls stopped calling him Chinese boy and started calling him by name, the 9 year old boy kept calling him Chinese boy though :(  I did not ask him how he would feel if people called him "black boy" rather than his name cuase.....not sure why i hesitated, I guess caue in this area african americans have a long history of being discriminated against.....also it seemed he was doing it to be mean, cause he kept saying it when i said it was hurtful, wasn't sure what to say to him 

 Unfortunately there aren't to many Asains where we live, so once in awhile kids say things out of ignorance, my pet peeve is that many people here think anyone Asian is Chinese, even after you specificaly tell them which country, argh look at a map!

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#2 of 6 Old 07-20-2011, 02:36 PM
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Ugh. Sorry you had to deal with that.

I think you handled it well, IMO. I bet that was really educational for the girl I could also understand why you hesitated with the boy.

We've had some strange experiences in the playground too and the way I approach it typically is to ask my boy if it is bothering him and if he says it is, then I encourage him to speak up and let the "offending" party know.

So far we've had good success with it like yesterday when a much older and bigger boy was getting in my son's face and making strange noises and sticking out his tongue to obviously antagonize him. My 5 year old very politely told him to please stop doing that and by the 3rd request, when the boy probably realized that it was not going to faze my 5 year old, he stopped.

I'm not saying I would not have stepped in if it had escalated but for now, I try to encourage my son to handle things first to sort of empower him and let him know that it's ok to set boundaries himself because I won't always be present with him, KWIM?

I'm not sure if that's the right way to go about it but it's been working so far so we'll see. I'm interested in what others' approaches are as well.

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#3 of 6 Old 07-20-2011, 03:25 PM
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hahaa, i can totally relate to this. my kids are half tibetan and my eldest two DSSs are full tibetan and they do NOT appreciate it when other kids call them Chinese, but they are older and very outspoken. They don't hesitate to educate the kids in their class about the history of tibetan occupation. That ended that.


i think you handled it fine. sometimes situations like this provoke an irritation inside and it's easy to have that feeling cause you to feel you overreacted, but it sounds like your outward actions were actually quite controlled and even illuminating for the other kids (albeit the one boy, but go figure - he's 9 and maybe he's even just jealous of your DS if he had similar experiences when littler - you mention in that area there's a history of discrimination - without someone to intervene on his behalf? just a thought)



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#4 of 6 Old 07-20-2011, 08:49 PM
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so sleep deprived... hope this makes sense.


I am mixed race - Korean on my moms side, and such a variety of ethnicities on my dad's side that no one even knows them all.  No chinese (that I know of!) in my background.  Anyhow, I meet a lot of kids in my neighborhood... they ask me if I am Chinese, and if I can speak Chinese.  I've literally had the following conversation and many others like it countless times:


Kid 1: Hi miss!  Are you chinese?

Me: No.

Kid 2:  You mixed?

Me: Yes.  [sometimes insert brief rundown - does not include any chinese - sometimes I just leave it at "yes"]

Kid 1 [to kid 2]: Everyone is mixed.

Kid 3: so, like, you speak chinese?

Me: No, I speak English and Korean.

Kid 1:  What about spanish, you speak spanish?

Me; Yeah, a little.

Kid 2:  I'm half black and half korean.  My mom is from the koreantown in [city].

Kid 1: Your a liar.  He lyin miss.

Kid 2: am not!

Kid 3: I'm half puerto rican - my dad is like your color and my mom is like his color.... so why am I this color, huh?

Kid 4: Hey, how do I say, "You're pretty" in Chinese?

Me: Uh.,... I don't know.  I don't speak Chinese.

Kid 2:  How about hasta la vista?  How do I say that in chinese?"

Kid 1; what are you doing?  Is that knitting?  My gramma taught me how to knit!  Can I do it!!




On the other hand.... as a kid, I have many memories of kids yelling at my brother and I from the bus, "Go back to china!" and people pulling their eyes at me, ching choning, and saying, "Me chinese, me play joke, me put peepee in your joke."  Like, every day.   Or in high school, my friends calling me a dirty asian like it was some kind of funny joke and me just being .... so confused.


Now I am sure the kids who called me names were just parroting things that they heard, but that was hate speech.  And it really was important to me to hear adults stand up when they did hear that stuff.  The only time I ever remember anyone standing up was about the dirty asian thing.  My kitchen boss told my friends, "Hey, don't use that kind of language.  That's not right."  And that was really incredibly important for me to hear - some impartial observer saying, "That's not funny."  And at the time I was like... "It's okay, they are my friends."  And he was like, "Sure, but this is my kitchen, and no one talks like that in here."  He didn't tell me how to feel, he just said that he didn't want to hear any derogatory language.


But  the kids who can't wrap their mind around me being asian but not chinese are just ill informed.... and they often want to have a serious conversation about race because they want to learn about the world.  I am generally happy to oblige because they are kids and they will only learn if someone is willing to talk to them about it.  But I am an adult and not a kid.


For your son, I think that a great thing to do is give him some sound bites to set his boundaries, like, "hey buddy - my name is so and so.  what's yours?'  And if the kid keeps calling him "chinese boy" - "hey buddy.... call me so and so."  And that he can be real firm - but detached, and perhaps, gosh you are silly, you are having a hard time remembering this, aren't you - about what his name is, and just not respond when he hears chinese boy, if he desires, because that is not his name.  The facts are facts, and such.  There's no reason your son has to or needs to get into a conversation about race politics unless he wants to, and in my experience as myself as a kid, trying to inform other people, "hey what you are saying is hurtful" or "your geography is bad, learn to read a map" can sometimes be perceived as a playground weakness or draw unwanted conflict.  Just more misery for the kid who feels singled out b/c of race.  It can feel much better to put on a stone face and let it roll off because other people's ignorance is not and should not ever be his responsibility.  If the kids somehow become friends with each other then they will often work out that information on their own.  if not, it is really irrelevant to your son's life and he shouldn't have to worry about it.


edit:  I do want to mention the "power plus prejudice" paradigm of racism.  Also the term "intersectionality" may be useful to you. 


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DD1 6/2009 DD2 5/1/2013-5/5/2013 (HIE) DS 3/2014
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#5 of 6 Old 07-21-2011, 06:22 PM - Thread Starter
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thank you for your responses,

the situation really bothered me and i was wishing i had a better way to respond. It wasn't the first time this kind of thing happened and will probably happen again.


I remember moving here my 1st year of highschool after moving around as a military brat and really hating it. I came back cause it seemed like it had become alot more diverse than it used to be(20 years later), still there very few Asians here and I still am worreid about my kids having to put up with  crap.

Grumpybear, and Ashtak,  yeah I would like my son to be able to handle it on his own , to have the tools to handle it,



ugh that's sounds awful having to hear that stuff on a daily basis while you are growing up,

without any adults or anyone stepping in to say anything




I see what you are saying about DS not having to feel he has to "educate"  the kids he's playing with yeah that's not his responsibility  unless he wants to and i can see how it would interfere w/ play,


I like this response you suggested Cyclamen, " - "hey buddy.... call me so and so."  And that he can be real firm - but detached, and perhaps, gosh you are silly, you are having a hard time remembering this, aren't you - about what his name is, and just not respond when he hears chinese boy, if he desires, because that is not his name. "


The only thing is that his name is Japanese and though it's simple and easy to pronounce people can't seem to say a name they've never heard of before...



I kind of wondered what DS would of done if I hadn't said anything...he's pretty darn good at social relations, he may have come up w/ a way to handle it, he's pretty good at making friends.


but my red button was pushed and I wanted him to know he doesn't have to put up with that kind of crap and wanted to be on his side,

maybe we'll role play so he can practice saying it,


so far as I know he hasn't had any problems at school, it's a smaller charter school and DS allready know alot of the kids, he was in the preschool but now he's starting kindergarten,

 they had a culture day where they recruited people who were from or had lived in other countries to set up tables w/ maps and information about the country, and show artifacts like money, art, clothing

they asked me to have a table for Japan, the kids were able to ask questions, seems like they are going to do it every year and hopefully get more participants from other countries. 


Cyclamen, I'm going to google the terms you mentioned, thank you! :)


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#6 of 6 Old 07-22-2011, 08:22 AM
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I think I would have simply coached my DS to respond firmly "My name is _____. " and to respond only to his name when he first started hearing "Hey, Chinese boy". 


If he really needed to respond any further, I'd go with "My name is ______. I'm not Chinese." And repeat as necessary. I think that likely gives the other kids a target for bullying though, since it points out a sensitivity for them to pick at. 


If a real conversation started about family heritage, then I see no problem getting into specifics. For example, if the girl had said "My grandpa was born in Italy" and started talking about her family's journey and was interested in your son's family. That doesn't seem like that's what happened, so I don't see any need to get into details with them. 



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