Raising children in a town without ethnic diversity

by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Mike Lee

My wife and I currently live in Central California which is different for us since it has that small town sort of feel. The majority of the population is Caucasian and Latino. Overall, there is a large conservative population here.

As a future parent, Jenny and I thought about whether we could raise a child in this area. It is completely different from what we are used to, being that I am from Orange County and my wife is from Chicago where there is significantly more ethnic diversity.

Unfortunately, we have had a few experiences here where we felt like we were being treated differently because of our ethnicity. There have been times when we were in restaurants where we were the only non-Caucasians(very weird feeling) and felt that service was poor toward us more than the other customers. My wife was blown away the first time it happened since she had never felt that way before growing up in Chicago. It’s hard now because anytime we are waiting longer at a restaurant for service, my wife feels paranoid that it is because we are Asian.

She has often raised the issue that are we taken advantage of because people know that we won’t cause a commotion or we won’t complain if they make us wait longer than someone else. Is it because Asian-Americans are stereotyped as being submissive and docile? It’s hard to say, but I don’t want my child to become paranoid that he is being treated differently because of his ethnicity. It is so hard to think about how we can protect our child from all the racism and prejudice in the world.

Does it make a difference to live in a city where there is more ethnic diversity? This is a challenging question that we deal with when thinking about raising our soon to be born baby. I can say that we have decided to move back to Orange County in a few months for this as well as other reasons. More importantly, I hope that at home we teach our child appreciation and respect for all cultures and that he should take a stand against discrimination whether it’s directed towards him or someone else.

Mike Lee currently works as a family practice physician. He was born in Korea but came to the U.S. after turning 1 year old and spent much of his life in Southern California. He blogs for Rice Daddies, and is very interested in the issue of dealing with the struggle for being anti-racist as both an individual and as a parent. He and his wife currently live in California.

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