Out Loud: What I learned this summer
ASSISTANT MOSAIC EDITOR
“My brother gets hit in school for being Asian.”
A young girl clad in pink shorts and a shirt emblazoned with a butterfly said this at the tennis camp I taught at this summer.
For the purpose of this article I’ll call the girl Jane. Jane’s comment made a room of rambunctious kids fall silent.
When the campers’ chatter proceeded, I talked to Jane, who has recently started the fourth grade.
I asked her if it was an isolated incident. It wasn’t.
“Last summer I went to basketball camp and some people made up mean things about being Asian, but I don’t want to tell you because I don’t want to remember,” she said.
Jane took a bite of the water ice she was eating and continued.
“[My brother’s] good at forgetting things like that, but I’m not,” she said.
Her brother will begin high school this fall.
Jane and her brother grew up in the same community I did: suburbia, USA. Think white picket fences, minivans, golden retrievers, middle class and mostly Caucasian.
Jane’s casual manner of describing the discrimination she and her brother experienced from other kids was shocking. It was as if she was telling me about what she had eaten for breakfast that morning.
I had always taken pride in the fact that there was little discrimination against the LGBTQ, disabled and racial minority communities in my area—at least that I had seen.
As an able-bodied Caucasian woman, my worldview is very limited.
I will never fully grasp what it means to face this kind of prejudice. I have always believed that those who do know what it is like to be profiled, teased and put-down should be listened to carefully because their insight can introduce new concepts and ideas to the privileged.
I never knew that in 2017, in my sheltered corner of the world, nine-year-olds are getting bullied for their race.
After Jane told me her story I began to reexamine what I had thought I’d known and understood.
I think that it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that things are okay for everybody when you are wearing the inevitable blinders that being born white, heterosexual and middle class gives you. I did.
I don’t know the extent of bigotry issues because I have never been the target of a bigot. I don’t know what it’s like to live in fear because I was born into privilege. I don’t know why the children who were bullying Jane and her brother thought that it was okay to do so because I did not witness their upbringing.
What I do know is that a nine-year-old is facing racial discrimination daily in my community.
What I do know is that communities everywhere should open up a dialogue about discrimination. While it is easy and comfortable to turn a blind eye or write incidents off as isolated, we will not be able to move forward as a nation unless we step outside of our comfort zones, educate ourselves and talk.