On my way out of the school yesterday, the principal pulled me aside to tell me about an incident with which Jack was involved. I immediately started to apologize—it’s a habit—but this time it wasn’t Jack’s fault… because he can’t help his ethnicity.
Seems one of the instructional assistants heard another fifth grade boy calling Jack “Asian.” Not referring to him as Asian, but actually calling him “Asian,” like a name. I was kinda “meh” about it until the principal said the same boy calls another kid “Little Mexican.” Together, these things made me super-prickly. I was glad the IA reported it and the principal gave this situation the attention it deserved: the kid was reminded of the rules about name-calling at school and asked to apologize. (For those of you familiar with our PBIS program, I don’t know if he was given a warning or referral, or spoken to only.)
I don’t know if I should be angry or sad or mama-bear-protective. My boy knows his ethnicity doesn’t make him better or worse than anyone else, so I’m not worried he’ll be scarred by this incident (it helps that he doesn’t like the kid much anyway). I think the whole thing mostly just makes me sad. What makes me prickly about it is that a kid—any kid in 2013—thinks it’s OK to talk to others this way. Have these racist attitudes been taught at home? Or could it be that the school staff and I are all overreacting because it’s typical at this age to be unintentionally insensitive?
When my nephews were in high school, I remember my sister being shocked to hear them and their friends call each other the n-word. To them, though, that was just a silly name that meant “friend.” It seems like many of the racist attitudes we were exposed to while growing up in the 70’s are mostly history, at least in this part of the world. This makes me very happy. The idea that people who grew up then might not only still be hanging on to those attitudes, but teaching them to their kids, makes me very unhappy.
We all have biases, some so much a part of us that we don’t even remember where they came from. I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that I am biased against ignorant and/or mean people, bad drivers, and jackasses who walk slowly in crowds. But when it comes to the biggies—gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, etc.—it is so, so important that we point our children in the right direction, discrimination-wise.
Stepping off my soapbox now.