PaKou Her writes about an important conversation she had with her six-year-old daughter about what it means to be mixed-race, Hmong, Asian, other. As important conversations often do, this discussion happened in the car while on the way home from a practice.
L: Mom, everyone at school thinks I’m white.
Me: Who says that to you?
L: (Lists off the names of about 10 friends. I observe that only one of the friends listed is a child of color.)
Me: What do you tell people when they say you are white?
L: I say, “No, I’m not! I’m an Asian girl! With a white dad!” But no one ever believes me.
Me: How does that make you feel?
L: It makes me angry because I’m not white. And they just keep trying to be in charge to tell me that I am white. But they are wrong.
Me: That must be really frustrating. But you can keep telling them that you are an Asian girl if that’s what’s important to you. Eventually your friends will learn that about you.
L: Well, sometimes some people believe I am Asian, but they think I am Chinese Asian. Even when I tell them I am a Hmong Asian girl!
L: They might think I am Chinese Asian because Chinese people have eyes that are farther apart.
P: What do you mean their “eyes are farther apart?”
L: Like this. (Pulls the corners of her eyes back into a look of ching-chong mockery)
Read on at 18 Million Rising to find out how PaKou handled the situation and why it’s so important for parents (especially of mixed-race kids) to talk about race, even when they might think their children won’t be affected.