The sad truth is that not many people even realize that May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. For (hopefully) obvious reasons, it is an important time to celebrate & educate in our home. This month (and every day) is a great opportunity to share stories and experiences of incredible Asian-American heroes. There is a real deficit in our society for books and media empowering children who are multicultural. I go to the book store and the library with my two half Korean children, whose dad, uncle, and two aunts were adopted from Korea as infants. We go into these establishments hopeful to find media that educates these children on their cultures, that tell stories like that of Major Lee, the son of Chinese immigrants, and is regarded as being the first Marine Corps Officer with Asian Ancestry.
Truth be told, I’m particularly fired up this morning with a burning desire to educate on Asian American, after watching a video of a lady in California spouting hatefulness to a Korean American driver. It shouldn’t surprise me considering my own children are only three and five and I’ve witnessed them on the receiving end of ignorance, more than once. Over a year ago, I shared a satirical piece on some of the ignorant comments we’d received since they had been born (at that time they were only three and one, so the fact that we had enough material for a blog post says something.)
I’ll share an updated version here below:
“AWW, is he adopted from China? I’ve always wanted to adopt from China. I’ve heard they are great and math and they are always so cute.”
-paraphrased from the world’s most awkward conversation with a barista at a coffee shop.
“Your kids are beautiful! Are they mixed? Is your husband a citizen yet? You know, I just want to tell you that my ex husband left me to marry an Asian lady and help her get a green card, so watch out okay? Have a great day!”
-a lady said this to me, in front of my children, while she gave us samples of corn dogs. Her manager was very receptive to my suggestion of offering a class on what is and isn’t appropriate to say to customers of varying ethnicity.
“Do your kids speak their first language?” “I know a few Japanese phrases, because my best friend is Japanese”
“He is very tall for an Asian child, isn’t he? Aren’t they usually short?”
me: “he is tall for a human child, yes.”
“Now, is he some kind of Oriental?”
me: “say what, biotch?”
The truth is, people always rave about the beauty of my children. They rarely say hurtful things from a place of unkindness per se. It is ignorance, it is stereotypes, and above all it is an opportunity to educate. I have tweeted and emailed book publisher after publisher to let me write a children’s book for boys like mine. Multicultural children who feel like they need to go into one box, even though we live in a world with multiple boxes. I want my kids to eat the fried chicken of my Southern roots, and know they are welcome to top it with Kimchi (or ketchup), or the potatoes from their father’s upbringing in Idaho. Let’s create and share age appropriate media for teachers to read in classrooms that show heroic efforts from across the universe, and that tell the stories of America’s vast diversity. Let’s help these young children know better than we know. Let’s squash stereotypes and stop sticking our Asian American children into roles that don’t fit them.
Let’s write our favorite cartoon channels and tell them to get cartoons that represent Asian American families.
Can I share a humbling story with you? When we moved to Portland, Liam was so happy to learn that kids here looked like him. He couldn’t believe he had “half and whole Korean friends.” Initially, I scratched my head, and then I realized it was indeed a first for him.
If you want to show your kids (or yourself) a little more about Asian & Asian American cultures, here are some suggestions:
Attend community cultural events. Korean night? Japanese food and culture night? Sign up and go!
Read great books to yourself and your kiddos (I’ve done my best to round some up here, I wish there were more.)
Crazy Rich Asians (this is a series), Fresh Off The Boat, Dim Sum For Everyone, Bee-Bim Bop, Dear Juno, The Name Jar.
Ask a friend with limited English to hang out. I invited my neighbor over when we first moved after her son explained she barely spoke any English. We have since forged a great relationship, and we’ve had fun trading cooking lessons for English practice. (She’s taking an English class at our local community college, but when she first asked me to speak English with her I was so confused!)
Volunteer with relocation groups, refugee groups, or anything of the like.
Encourage your kids to invite “different” friends for playdates and activities.