Christine Rhyner

Christine's blogs

Minority Against Minority
Sunday, January 12, 2014 by Christine

And it came. The day of real racism against my son in which I was not there, did not see or hear it and could not protect or defend him from it.

It was a day like any other that my son, twelve years-old, had been given permission to walk together to a local park with a friend of his. The boys, no longer little kids didn’t swing on the swings or climb the monkey bars I’d watched Lucas tackle a hundred times as he grew. Nor did they fill pails with sand they’d promptly dump out all over themselves. No, those days were over. They “hung out.”

I’d heard afterward that Lucas climbed to the top of the restroom facility at the park and sat on its roof, imperiously gazing down on the fenced in kiddie park, duck pond, and all who came and went.

Apparently that’s when it happened. A group of minority children whose ethnic background is irrelevant, approached my Asian-born son and began to verbally assault him with ethnic slurs.

The thing that wounded me for my son was that these children, being minorities themselves likely have been the target of someone else’s racism. Did they not understand how it felt to be judged, criticized or stereotyped?  Or did they, and was the racial sewage that came out of their mouths something that made them feel powerful?

In either case, I felt anger too. Had I been there I would have wanted to verbally tear into those children and give them a good piece of my mind.

Our son’s response to the affront had been to ignore it. Maybe he is a better person than I. Perhaps that had been the right decision to make in the moment. Yet a part of me wants him to stand up to racism, to defend himself and without attacking back, be proud of his heritage and ethnicity.

These situations are difficult for transracial families to navigate their way through. We realize we cannot always be there to protect our kids. We are made aware abruptly (and so are they), like an unexpected slap in the face, that racism is pervasive in our diverse society. And we are uncertain about discussing racism with our kids, wondering if bringing it up will make it more of an uncomfortable issue for our children or better equip them to deal with it. I know that my twelve year-old son is not one to discuss his feelings openly and regularly.

Our particular child or children’s personalities have to be taken into consideration. Some are more outspoken and aggressive in personal encounters in which they are violated in some way. Mine happen not to be. They are more reserved in such situations.

I have tried to teach them to stick up for themselves and speak up in other situations in which say, they’ve been bullied. They don’t seem to naturally, or through instruction want to do this.

In fact, it wasn’t even my son who told me about this painful experience. His friend, who happens to be Caucasian told my husband who then told me. That also hurt my heart. I wished my son had come forward to discuss the situation.

I can say that there are no more “hanging out” sessions for my child in places like parks. Not a place to run free, explore and do things like build forts or climb trees, this park is now off limits for the express purpose of climbing outhouses and finding trouble.

Sometimes I feel that talking about issues such as adoption and racism with my children makes it front and center that they are “different” than my husband and I and the majority of their family and friends. They don’t like to talk about these issues but it’s important that we do. While we have always instilled pride in them for their birth cultures and countries of origin, we need to keep an open dialogue with our kids as they grow and make sure they are not “stuffing” their feelings concerning these topics.

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