Before having a kid, every parent has thoughts and concerns such as: Am I ready for this? Will I be a good parent? Is my child going to be healthy? After the child is born, more thoughts and fears arise such as: Is my child developing normally? Is my house safe? Am I doing things correctly? As children grow up, these concerns change but never go away.
I had, and continue to have, all these thoughts and concerns. Recently, however, a new concern surfaced. My son is bi-racial living in America today. Specifically, he is an Asian-American, half Caucasian, half Vietnamese.
I am a white male in America. I am at the top of the food chain. I am fully aware that I have benefitted from white privilege my entire life. It wasn’t until 5 or so years ago that I started to realize this and understand it. Even though my wife and I have been together for 15 years and she is Asian, I didn’t get it.
I am thankful for friends and family, as well as my desire to understand racial inequality better, for opening my eyes. I still have a long way to go but I am committed to improving. I also take it upon myself to get educated on the topic. If you are interested, I highly recommend the book “White Fragility” by Robin Diangelo.
But this post is not about me. It is about my son and my new fears I have for him due to the recent increase in crimes against Asian-Americans. Unfortunately, it has become clear to me that racism towards Asian-Americans has always been around. Because we have had some leaders over the last few years applaud and enable this type of behavior, it has increased and become much more prominent.
I wish to not make this a political post, so I won’t mention any specific leaders by name, but I think you know who I am talking about. Much like Voldemort, I feel saying his name gives him power so I will refrain from doing so. Hearing he who shall not be named refer to COVID19 as the Kung Flu or the Chinese Virus, as well as other statements, has caused me much pain as I have seen firsthand the consequences.
Before my son was born, my wife was at the grocery store. As she was pushing her cart with groceries to the car, she was followed by a middle-aged man. He proceeded to harass her, telling her to go back to China. She is not even Chinese, she is Vietnamese. Thankfully it was daytime and other people were around. Additionally, my wife did the right thing by not engaging with him, keeping a safe distance, and getting out of there as quickly as possible.
This incident was before the pandemic. Another incident happened recently with me and my son. A young boy, around 6 or 7 years old approached me and said, “Your son is Chinese.” While there is certainly no malice involved in this incident, unlike my wife’s encounter, it still hit me hard as it was the first race related incident I had encountered with my son. I am not upset with the boy, he did not mean any harm by saying it, although the way he said it certainly implied that he learned being Chinese was not a good thing from somewhere. I did not know how to react to the situation, so I just ignored it.
My son means the world to me. The fact that he will have to face hardships and cruelty in his life just because of his skin color hurts me to the core. The fact that my wife must live in fear just because of where she came from makes me angry.
For months I have banged my head against the wall and had sleepless nights thinking about what I can do for them. I have also been feeling shame and guilt for having white privilege. I tried to inform people, including friends and family, about the things I have learned and experienced regarding racism. That was an utter failure. Political debates and feelings of being attacked were the result.
I realized that just like with anything, you need to be open to change to be receptive towards hearing about it. If someone is not willing to listen, it is like talking to a brick wall. So, rather than trying to educate others, in which I have no control over, I decided to take a different route.
I will equip my son with all the tools I can to help him live with racism. I will teach him martial arts, so he has confidence and physical self-defense ability. I will teach him about compassion and empathy and make sure he knows he can always talk to me and his mom about things. Most importantly, I will start educating him on racism and its effects, so he knows how to deal with it.
It is the last step that I have started to find books and other things for kids that teach them about racism. I came across a great series of books by Mary Nhin. Specifically, “Masked Ninja” and “Diversity Ninja”. Not only are these books great to teach kids about racism, but they also have ninjas in them. What more could a Karate Dad ask for?
At some point I also plan on trying to do more for kids everywhere to help them with racism, not just my own son. For right now, my focus is on rebuilding my business from the setbacks caused by the pandemic and ensuring my family is safe and healthy.
Rather than banging my head against the wall and trying to help people that don’t want help, I think the best course of action is educating our youth in order to break the cycle as well as teaching them how to handle these situations.
For more information on how you can help the Asian American community, please visit the following site: https://stopaapihate.org/actnow/