Via Angry Asian Man comes this episode of The Moth Podcast called "Chink." Told by Master Lee, the story is about his experience growing up as the only Chinese kid in his school in West Hartford, Connecticut, a town not far from where I grew up. Naturally, he was bullied and called a chink and got into fist fights every day, until a Bruce Lee flick came to the local drive-in. It's hilarious, and it felt like home.
My family has finally gotten to some sense of normalcy here in Los Angeles. We've unpacked the last of our boxes and established some new routines. Out and about, I've heard more people speaking Tagalog than I did around my own family back in CT, and I've already pigged out on my first Goldilocks buko pie since moving back. Every day, my husband and I share an "I love L.A." moment. And yet, hearing Master Lee's story was like having a much-needed slice of home. How homesick do you have to be when stories about racism make you sort of nostalgic?
So many things are different for my daughter. The little one started preschool this week and her class is genuinely diverse. Whereas "diverse" back in Connecticut mostly meant about a handful of POC's amongst a sea of white kids, my daughter's preschool classroom here in West LA is actually pretty evenly split between Asian kids, Latino kids, and white kids. Many of the kids we've met outside of preschool so far -- in our neighborhood and friends of friends -- are mixed race.
Not to make a sweeping generalization but I think Master Lee's story is an experience I think all of us who grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods share. If you were lucky and grew up at the right time, you were saved by some badass Asian role model (for Master Lee it was Bruce Lee at the local drive-in, for me it may have been Margaret Cho), but most of the time you were just the only chink in school. It's a story I know how to handle because I've been there.
I'm not saying we're living in a post-racial society. I know she will eventually experience racism, but I can't really anticipate what my daughter's experience with racism will be like or how I'm supposed to handle it. Somehow I doubt I'll be dealing with the same issue when my kid gets to public school, and while I wouldn't wish my experiences on my daughter, the thought of something different scares me all the same.