The Atlanta massage parlor shootings happened last week, and since then, #StopAsianHate has been trending on social media.
Last night, Leon looked over my shoulder and saw “STOP ASIAN HATE” written in large letters on my phone. He said, “Stop… Asian… hate. What’s ‘Asian hate’?” And my heart just broke.
I escaped into my own mind for a while as I contemplated the proper answer for a four-year-old who not only doesn’t understand the concept of race but especially not the fact that some people commit hate crimes because of race. I lost myself in the innocent brown eyes staring up at me.
By the time I was able to blabber something about how some people are mean to other people because they look different, Leon had lost interest and shifted his focus back to The Magic School Bus. I don’t think he even heard my answer.
Minh asked me the other day how and when we want to approach the subject of race with Leon. I’ve thought about it lately, especially since the racist anti-Asian Dr. Seuss characters made headlines, and honestly, I planned on deferring to Minh about the most appropriate time and way to go about it. I obviously have no idea what it’s like to grow up as a minority.
As Leon has learned about body parts, we’ve set the stage that some people have brown, curly hair (Mommy and Leon), some people have black hair (Daddy), some people have blonde hair (his friend at school), some people have something else — but all hair is pretty. Similarly, our family has light skin, but some people (like a couple of his teachers and friends) have darker skin — but everyone’s skin does the same job.
Similarly, we’ve done our best to expose him to a variety of cultures, foods, experiences, etc. And he identifies well with the foods from his own Korean heritage (he and Minh ate gimbap yesterday, and the other day he called Halmoni to tell her how much he likes Spam and eggs). I really have no doubt that we can teach him to be respectful, appreciative, and proud.
But, like I’m assuming most parents feel, it just hurts my heart to introduce the concept that sometimes this world is unfair, and some people do horrible things for no reason other than the fact that they’re hateful. And there’s really not a whole lot I can do about that to shield him from that ignorance. And that sucks.
On a lighter note, we took Leon to the natatorium yesterday, and he really enjoyed his first real swimming experience. He was all smiles.