So this happened: A kid wrote “ching chong” on my white board today. This happened sometime between the end of 5th period and the start of 6th period. I have no idea who it was, it very well could have been a kid I don’t even teach. I am half Chinese and half Swiss/Norwegian/Sweedish. I’ve heard all the slurs and seen all the fake “slanty eyes”. I’ve been told from other Asians that I’m not Asian enough and I’ve been told from other Whites that I’m not White enough.
My initial thoughts were mostly benign, as in “I better erase that before it becomes distracting to the kids”. But as I thought about it more, I started to get more and more emotional about it. It was a teachable moment, and I decided to try and work with it. I pointed it out to the kids, and started to explain why the slur was hurtful to me. Then the worst thing happened – my emotions got the best of me and I started to cry. I’ve never once cried in front of students (see this old post). I’ve always been able to hold it together long enough for a break. Evidently, this racial slur really dug deep into me. My 6th period was sympathetic, empathetic and really listened to why seeing his slur hurt me. A kid jumped up an erased it, and just listened. Even as I cried and spoke from my heart to my kids, I recognized that who ever wrote the slur probably didn’t do it maliciously. In fact, the kid probably doesn’t even recognize it as a hateful racial slur.
I work at a racially segregated school, 81% of our students are Latino. I am one of 4 Asians in the building. Their exposure to Asian Americans are limited to what they see on TV and other popular culture which are full of stereotypes. They exist in a bubble without exposure to diversity. In addition, our school as a whole does not dedicate any time or energy towards ethnic studies, cultural sensitivity or social justice. It does happen in individual classes – namely history classes – but there is no school wide focus. Honoring, celebrating and learning from different cultures just has not been a priority. So I’m going to try and create some change on that front this coming semester. Literally, in the first weeks of school, I get asked hourly “where are you from. No really, where are you from?“.
Where am I from? I’m from 37˚44’N, 122˚26’W: San Francisco. Coincidentally, I got a new tattoo of just that this past weekend.
The rest of my outfit I photographed during lunch, before I became a mess. Layers are key as a teacher. I strip down to one layer while the room is full of teenagers and I’m running around teaching (sweating). But then the kids leave taking their body heat with then so I cozy up during prep periods when my room turns freezing.
coat and sweater: uniqlo – top: f21 – jeans, boots and bracelets: madewell – belt: gap – necklace: family heirloom