the ferrous wheel

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 03 2009

So, you’re saying, racism isn’t a problem at all?

I asked this of a student today, after I heard a bunch of kids in the hallway cursing after school and had to do my duty of telling them to get out of the hallway and go home. As soon as I stepped out of my room, he started saying my last name over and over with a “chinky” accent. I’ve had students do this to me before. And usually I am pretty tolerant of it, because, I realize, I am the only Asian person in my entire school building (and probably for a 1 mile radius, except for the people who work at the carry outs) and they are immature kids who don’t really interact with other minorities very often.

But, no. I’m tired of it already. It’s so effing exhausting to be the only Asian person in my building sometimes.
Earlier in the year, I had my students ask me a range of questions: “No offense, but I’m just curious – do you guys really eat dog?” “Do you do kung fu?” “Can you make General Tso’s chicken?” “Are you related to Ms. Wong, this other teacher at this other school I used to go to?”

I used to just look my students straight in the eye, and ask them how they feel about racial stereotypes. Usually if I just stop and look at them like they are asking a stupid question, they’ll say, “Ok, I know that was a stupid question.” And it’s fine.

Today, though, this stupid little 9th grader crossed the line. It’s late enough in the year that I know almost all of our students’ names, and they know me, so there are no excuses for ridiculous questions and stereotypes like that. I pulled him aside and asked him how he felt about racism.

When I asked him if racism was still a problem in our country, he shook his head. He was being purposefully obnoxious. I really wanted to ask him, “So, how do you feel when someone asks if you if you eat watermelon and fried chicken? Or when people cross the street when they see you walking towards them? Or when people roll up their windows when you walk by their cars?” Or what about how you are in the 9th grade, read like a 3rd grader, do math like a 4th grader, and can’t sit still because you eat chips and candy all day and will probably grow up to have diabetes and a multitude of other physical and mental ailments because you live in a world where lines are drawn across race? He would’ve just shaken his head, though, and kept acting like nothing was wrong.

What an immature little…UGH! He’s going to be my student next year. It’s mean to say, but I really hope he decides to go to another school over the summer.

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    teaching kids to love science

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