At ballet on Wednesday, a little girl asked Zoe why her skin was brown, told her it looked dirty, like it was covered with mud, called her "Blackie," and accused her of "sneaking around" the ballet studio. Zoe didn't say anything in response, and none of her friends in the dressing room stood up for her.
It's all so ugly, it even hurts to type it. I can only imagine how much it hurt Zoe to hear it. She was upset, but even worse, when I offered sympathy, she tried to make me feel better, saying, "I'm used to it." She's used to it, not because anyone has said that about her skin before, but because of the "Chinese eyes" incidents. How awful to be 8 years old and used to racial teasing and racial insults.
When kids make comments about race I don't automatically assume they've learned racism from their racist parents. But this one? The "mud" reference makes me think of white supremacists who call all non-whites "mud people." Am I overreacting? Maybe. But the "sneaking around" comment also seems too . . . I don't know the right word -- sophisticated?advanced? for a 6-year-old insulting an Asian-American.
Sneaky, sly, devious -- this part of the Asian-American stereotype exists, even with the prevalence of the "model minority" myths. But would a 6-year-old see Asian-Americans as sneaky? Has she been reading news accounts of Chinese spies? Watching Fu Manchu movies? Catching up on the justifications for internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II? Somehow I doubt it. So where does it come from at this age?!
I don't know what else to say. Enough intellectualizing.
My child claims to be "used to it." It just sucks.