by Guest Contributor (and regular commenter) Atlasien
*Warning: Strong Language*
– Although the family structure is an important site of resistance to racism, research highlights that many minority ethnic children do not discuss their experiences of racial abuse with parents or other family members.
– Ethnic minority young people are not passive recipients of racism – they employ a range of strategies when confronted with racial abuse.
– It is important to produce integrated strategies, involving a number of agencies, to combat racist abuse both in the school setting and in the local community.
– To date, the majority of responses have focused on the victims of racial harassment, but the effectiveness of these programmes is debatable. Agencies also need to undertake both preventive and interventive programmes focusing on perpetrators.
– There is a need for approaches which are based on children’s actual experiences and perceptions rather than adult constructions of the problem.
Did they ever tell the black girls to go back to Africa?
Back then, I didn’t know. And I had no idea how to ask.
There were a few of them at my middle school, maybe around ten. For some reason, I don’t remember ever seeing any black boys. The middle school must have been between 95-99% white. It was about .001% Asian (me).
The black girls stuck close together. I had no interaction with them, with one exception. One girl was in my Honors class for a year. She didn’t fit in well. She seemed very loud and very insecure (I was quiet and insecure). One day for show and tell, she brought her little sister to school. She was obviously proud of her little sister, who was extremely cute. But the girl’s first name was the same as a certain household product and the rest of the class couldn’t stop saying how crazy that name was. Why would any parent name their kid something so crazy? They must be stupid. I watched the big sister get frustrated, almost to the point of tears. Either her family moved after that year, or she transferred to another school.
I always looked at the black girls and wondered: what did I have in common with them? I took this question very, very seriously. If I found something in common with them, maybe I wouldn’t have to feel so horribly alone. As it was, junior high school race relations felt sort of like The Omega Man/I am Legend, with me being Charlton Heston/Will Smith.
When I was five and six, we lived in Japan with my father. Then my mother moved back to America to be close to my grandparents. We started off living with them, then moved to a house in the suburbs. I quickly forgot all my Japanese, but I kept ties in other ways. I refused to eat sandwiches for lunch; I had to have my bento with noodles or rice.
I was as close to my father as is possible with a non-custodial parent in another country. We talked on the phone, I flew out to Japan in the summer, he got copies of my grades in school. My grades were always good. I really liked school. I played soccer and swam and rode my dirt bike. I liked living in America. I was American because my mom and my grandparents were American and I was born in America and I lived in America.
Then, starting about second grade, I noticed that other kids started calling me names and singing funny songs at me. The other kids started telling me I didn’t belong. I looked weird and I talked funny. I wasn’t a real American. I should go back to China. My mother had always stressed the importance of logic, reason and peaceful conflict management. I tried logic. I told them I’d never even been to China. I didn’t even know anyone from China. Nobody paid attention. I started getting frustrated and depressed in school. Read the Post Getting Past the Bears: Racist Abuse in Middle School and the Formation of People of Color Consciousness