Nat is one of three African-American kids in her class of 19 at school. There are also two Asian kids, a brother and a sister (5 and 3). Their parents are first-generation Korean immigrants. When I was visiting Nat's classroom recently, I overheard a couple of the white boys teasing the 5 yo Asian boy by saying "you're Chinese! You have a Chinese shirt! You ride a Chinese bike!" then much laughter. The kid being teased did a noble job of absolutely ignoring them. You'd have thought he was deaf to their words.
I was really bothered. The teachers in the room were far away and had not heard the exchange, but I am certain it wasn't the first time, right? Surely they have heard it before. So I began thinking about what to do. I ought, I think, to have intervened with the kids right then and there, but of course, I was slow on the uptake in the moment. And even pondering it later, I thought about a dozen ways to intervene and couldn't really decide what would have been best. So I thought I should either email or meet face to face with the teacher to share the story and find out if she has a classroom game plan for intervening in that sort of thing already and what it might be. And on the chance she doesn't have such a plan, sharing my concern that she develop one. Somehow.
But I had done none of this as yet, when Cole came home from dropping Nat at school yesterday and told me that Nat had announced that 3 yo sister of the boy I saw teased "lives in China!" then fell out laughing. Which is probably my number one biggest concern about the whole thing--that Nat not pick up the idea that it's funny or cool to tease an Asian kid for...being Asian.
Cole's response to Nat was based on one of the ideas I had tossed out to her about addressing what I had seen at the school, which was to lay down the facts. She told Cole, "no, 3 yo sister lives in ChicagoSuburb." She then coached Nat in this and role-played with her what she should say if anyone said her friend lived anywhere other than ChicagoSuburb.
I gave her a refresher at the door to school, since 3 yo sister and her mom were the first people we saw today at drop off. "Where does 3 yo sister and her 5 yo brother live?" I asked Nat. "ChicagoSuburb," nat said. "And if someone says they live somewhere else, what will you say?" I asked. "I will say, 'No! They live in ChicagoSuburb!'" she answered.
But that's all I've got at the moment. We will need to do a larger talk about racial differences in people's bodies--which we've done since Day One, with regard to the racial and phenotypical differences in our own family. But as for what to do/say to the white teasing boys and/or the Asian kids and/or the whole class, and/or the teacher? I'm swimming with feelings and thoughts, but would really appreciate feedback from those of you with more experience with these things a la school and multiple racial differences. Obviously the school's "multicultural potluck" is hardly a way to address such issues. But the school does care about getting it right. Help me help them do that.