Thursday, August 26, 2010

Middle School Math: Asian - Oriental + Chink = Run

Lesson #1201:

Middle School Math:

Asian - Oriental + Chink = Run

To any White friends I made during middle school, I was everyone’s little “Chinese” friend, except for the obvious fact that I was not actually Chinese.

“But it’s all the same, right? You’re all Asian, right?”

“Sure, we’re all Asian, but it’s kind of like you’re all White, but you’re not the same White as the White people in England or Australia or Ireland, or something like that.”

“What does it matter any way? Korean, Chinese, who cares?” Just as Alice finished up her sentence, I felt something hit me in the back, and then in the back of my head.

I turned around.

“Hey, you oriental! Hey, chink! Do you understand that?!”

Alice ran away.

I still felt a bit disoriented. I heard cackling and loud, raucous laughter. I was trying to figure out what was happening, when I felt another object hit me in the forehead. I looked down the hill, and I saw a group of three boys laughing and pointing.

One of the boys had a giant soda cup. He reached in and pulled out a piece of ice. At the same time, I saw one of the other boys pick up a rock. They both began to throw their found objects in my direction.

A part of me stood there in disbelief, not wanting to comprehend what was unfolding. I didn’t want to believe that this was actually happening to me. Finally, it all began to process, and I realized that they were indeed throwing rocks and pieces of ice at me.

Move your legs and feet, dumby. Get out of the way. Do something. Don’t just stand there like your some kind of idiot.

I turned back around and started running with my head down, trying to cover it with my notebook.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. I thought to myself, surely, this is a mistake. Surely, I’m having a bad dream. But the throbbing at the back of my head told me that this was anything but a bad dream.

I stopped for a second and looked back again. I had made it over the crest of the hill. I couldn’t see the boys anymore, which hopefully meant that they couldn’t see me either. Maybe it was all a mistake. Maybe I misheard what they said.

The street ended at the top of the hill where it met with the street on which I lived. I took a left. Just two houses down on the left, I reached my house. I made my way up the driveway. I got to the front door and dug out my house key from my backpack.

I paused. This is my home, right? I looked around at the yard and the front of the house.

I unlocked the front door. It cracked open; the alarm was beeping. I keyed in the code. No one else was home.

I made my way up the stairs to my bedroom. When I reached the top of the stairs, I examined the arrangement of family photos perched atop one of the cabinets.

I wanted to take them all down and bring them to school, so that everyone could see that I was just like they were. I’m the same. See, my family looks just like yours.

I got to my bedroom and closed the door. I put my book bag down.

I stood in front of my long-way mirror. I turned to the side and then back facing forward.

Every time I saw myself, I was still surprised to see this short, black-haired, almond-eyed girl staring back.

But the world never forgets what it sees. And it does its best to make certain that I, too, won’t ever forget the way it sees me.

* * *

Alice and I did not talk anymore after that incident, which clarified that what had taken place that day had not been a bad dream or a mistake.

I never told anyone about what happened, hoping that pretending as though it never happened would make it hurt less.

My mom eventually asked me about Alice. I told her that I didn’t like Alice anymore, that she wasn’t a nice friend. My mom didn’t ask me any more questions. She simply said, “I’m sorry. Well, don’t you worry, honey, there are more nice friends out there to be made. Don’t worry yourself over the duds.”

I wanted to say in response, “What if I’m one of the duds?”

But instead, I just gave her a smile and said, “Thanks, mom.”

* * *

[Click here to read the series on "Growing Up as a KAD"]


Yoli said...

This is not an isolated incident of the past, many others are occurring right now as we move through our daily lives. Wish I could hug the child you were and the adult you are now.

Soojung Jo said...

I'm twitching now. Thanks Melissa :)

L said...

Thank you for posting your story(ies). I'm caucasian have spent most of my life not even beginning to understand racism.

I remember when I was 7 or so hearing kids chanting 'ching chang chong' on the playground and being told it was chinese. My chinese friend quickly informed me that what they were chanting was NOT chinese and they were mean because they were trying to make fun of chinese people. I was baffled, the whole thing made little sense to me. I actually asked her to say something in 'Chinese' and she replied in either cantonese or manderine and it sounded nothing like 'ching chang chong'. The whole situation seemed strange to me, and when I tried to tell the kids who where chanting (silly me thought telling them would clear things up), they didn't stop and she pulled me away.

I also didn't understand why my 1/2 malasian cousin got so upset at being called chinese. And I didn't understand that 'seeing' him or my 1/2 indian cousins as 'white' wasn't any better. I was raised in a diverse situation, yet I still didn't undertand that what racism was or how it really affected people. I thought it was bad people who used the occational slur and that was it. Thanks to people like yourself who promote discussion in this area, I'm beginning to grasp racism. I hope we can all do a better job at teaching our children to be respectful to one another than past generations have.

Mila said...

Yoli, indeed. That is in part why I share these accounts--not for pity's sake but to educate. So many people remain under the illusion that racism doesn't exist any longer or that incidents such as these are the exception rather than the norm...I think in particular that adoptive parents often want to maintain an illusion that their children will never experience such treatment...that the world will love and respect them just as the adoptive parents do. If only...

* * *

I'm twitching right along with you, Raina. ;)

* * *

L, thank you for your comment and thank you for stretching yourself to acknowledge and to try to understand the very real and present influences and practices of racism...

Mei Ling said...

"Ching" and "Chong" don't even exist in Mandarin. XD

Mila said...

Mei-Ling, oh wait, really? You mean that group of White five-year olds back in 1980 that made fun of me didn't actually know Mandarin?! I'm shocked. (*note thick layer of sarcasm)

However, ironically enough--like some kind of sick, twisted joke of fate--the sounds "ching" and "chong" ARE actually sounds in the Korean language (of course, I did not know this back then).

For instance, "chingu" means friend, or "chingsong" means applause or praise, and even more ironically, "chong," means "gun," and "chongal" means "bullet," and so forth...

Oh, the cruel irony of it all. Almost makes me want to laugh and puke all at once...