Sunday, January 18, 2009

More on "Chinese Eyes" and "Ching-Chong" Speech

Thanks, Mei-Ling, for the heads up about this great post by Paula at Heart, Mind and Seoul:

About a month ago, I was subbing for a multi-grade classroom of 2nd and 3rd
grade students. Now I understand that it is not at all uncommon for children of this age to still be especially attached to their teacher. It took all of a nanosecond for the kids to realize that clearly, I was NOT their teacher. Some had faces of disappointment. One boy - who later proved to be a little on the mischievous side - appeared to be amused and almost delighted upon seeing my face. And still others were just caught dead in their tracks. I can't say for certain why they seemed so shocked, but trust me - they were. I found out later from another teacher that this
particular school identifies itself as 97% white, as does the city in which the school is located. Upon learning that fact, I couldn't help but wonder if some of the kids had ever seen an Asian adult before - that may sound preposterous to some, but I honestly don't think it's totally out of the realm of possibility.

As I introduced myself and invited them to come in and start their daily morning writing exercise before our morning meeting, several kids were wandering aimlessly around the room. I went to gather a group of them when I looked over to see a few boys in a semi-circle. One boy had both of his pointer fingers positioned at the outer corner of each of his eyes, pulling the skin around his eyes as taut as could be. He
was doing this while nodding his head slowly and making mock "ching-chong" noises. Another boy was trying to attempt some kind of martial arts move. The other boys were just laughing.

It's amazing how a few actions from a group of 7 and 8 year-old boys can make one feel so vulnerable and small. I think for a few seconds my 37 year-old body reverted back to assuming the same exact physical sensations I used to experience when I was teased as a child. I was seriously surprised by the mini-pangs that shot briefly through my stomach.

Click here to read the wise way Paula, adult Korean adoptee and adoptive parent, handled it.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I thought she handled it very well and I am so glad the school seemed to take it seriously.
It just shows what some people think is just a matter of childhood teasing is so hurtful that it took Paula back in time instantly to the child with no power who felt so small.
Racial teasing is so hurtful. Why is it that it has to be one classroom at a time? I hope with our new president comes new hope for national education in race relations and acceptance.