Tag Archives: The Lions of Little Rock

The Misguided Guide

My parenting could be described as a “fly by the seat of my pants” philosophy. Before I became a parent, I read parenting books and made notes on steps and rules. I was a planner, and I was certain of my future as a parent.

The minute my boy broke free from my womb, it was apparent that no book could prepare me for this trip, but I wholeheartedly accepted my role as the life travel guide.

If you have been reading my blog, you know that my boy is struggling with his racial identity. One day, he wants to blend in. The next, he proclaims his allegiance to Asian Pride. My love for him drives me to be supportive but also to encourage dialogue so that I, too, can learn. His recent entry through the door of self-discovery has brought many opportunities and also several failings in my job as his tour guide.

Current events and books are often the spark to our talks. Recently, discussions erupted about the Zimmerman trial (Trayvon Martin) and racial profiling. We talked about a local incident.

My daughter asked if the person was “African American.” My son immediately said, “You can say ‘black’ because saying African American is kinda incorrect.” She suddenly teared up. I explained that terms evolved, and I brought up a book she had read to me this year, The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. We talked about the progression of terms through the years.

My daughter sulked. She felt down the rest of the day. At bedtime, she could not hold back her fears. Through tears, my daughter said, “I want to look more like you. I want to be Asian. I don’t mind if people tease me. I am afraid that people will expect the worst from me because I am white!”

How insensitive I had been! In trying to protect and support my son, I had alienated my daughter. It wasn’t as if I did not know her racial identity struggles. I had written about it here! But when I had asked her the same questions I had asked my son, she had seemed so definitive.

Me: “Are you Korean?”

My daughter: “Yes.”

Me: “Are you Puerto Rican?”

My daughter: “Yes.”

Me: “Are you American?”

My daughter: “Yes.”

Me: “Are you British?”

My daughter: “Yes.”

I thought she was so much more comfortable in her skin, but in fact, she isn’t. She is just as confused as I am.

I have been misguided in applying my experiences as a child to both my children. My daughter is frustrated because she does not have the same experiences I had. She cannot share those experiences like her brother and I can, and we have made her an outsider.

I recognize my mistake. She is mixed and confused. Lending me her spectacles on life, she has taught me her struggles, and I vow to listen more carefully. We will travel these roads together and alternate guide duties.

A Day of Ups & Downs

The sun was shining today as I walked my daughter to school. She asked out of the blue, “Who do I look like? Some say I look more like Daddy, but I want to look more like you.”

I had to think about this a moment, then I said, “Why do you want to look more like me?”

Her reply? “I want to be more Asian, like brother.”

I reassured her that she and her brother were a beautiful mix of her father and me, and that she was Hapa, a very special mix. She skipped into school, seemingly happy.

After school, the kids and I ran errands and then chatted as we always do at dinner. I also noticed writing on my son’s arm. “What’s that, dude?” I asked.

“What do you think it is?” he replied. “Think texting language.”

I looked at him puzzled.

“Okay,” he began, “AZN, and say the ‘A’ as the letter.”

Still puzzled.

“Geez Mom! Don’t you get it? WAZN. AZN is Asian. I’m WAsian, because I am white and Asian. Asian Pride!”

I was quite impressed by his pride in his race. Now, I was happy, just not skipping.

At bedtime, my daughter has been reading me a book she had chosen, The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. She had chosen this book because she wanted to know more about segregation in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Tonight, the story entered the dark world of the KKK. One wife, who has been beaten by her husband, finds his white cloak in the closet. Threats are made on the women of the integrationist WEC (Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools). One letter says, “You and all the others who think like you should be tied to a car and dragged down Ninth Street, as did happen once before.”

From here, the 1927 story of John Carter, the last lynching in Little Rock, is told in some detail. I am sitting quietly as she reads this, not sure how she is taking it.

We finish the chapter, and I tuck her in bed. “Mom,” she begins, “The KKK hated lots of people who were different. Are they still around?”

I tell her yes but that they are the ones who now meet in secret and that they only protest. I try to assure her that the law protects us from them.

As I get prepared for tomorrow, a small shadow emerges. “Mom, I’m scared of the KKK. What if there are cloaks in the closet?” she asks.

I can only tell her that I will protect her and that I doubt there are KKK near us. It may be a restless night.