The Chinese Food Email (Part II)

written by Love Isn’t Enough guest contributor Tonggu Momma; originally published at Our Little Tongginator

[Note: This is the second part of a three-part series. See Part I.]

I know many of y’all are waiting to hear how Ms. Confetti dealt with the email I sent her two days ago. Well, suffice it to say that I STILL adore the Tongginator’s kindergarten teacher. She responded, which – I’m sad to say - is half the battle. And I think she did a fairly good job navigating the situation.

I’ll tell you more in a bit, but first I wanted to point y’all to two sites. The first is Kristen’s post from yesterday, little bigots at basketball, which covers so much of how I felt while I held the Tongginator as she cried. And how I felt when I called Tonggu Grammy, desperately asking for her help in crafting my email and wondering if I over-reacted.

The second site touches on the very topic I struggled with so much yesterday: how much do I share about the Tongginator’s experience, especially when I know the information will be helpful to other parents who adopted transracially, except it’s mostly the Tongginator’s story and not mine? If this is a topic near and dear to your heart – as it is to me – please consider voting for the Adoption, Infertility and Loss: How much do you share online? Room Of Your Own break-out session to be presented at BlogHer ’10 in NYC in August.

As for the school response to my Chinese Food Email, Ms. Confetti read the email several hours after I sent it because – ya know – she’s teaching in the classroom. With no assistant. And she seemed properly concerned about the Tongginator, especially since there was a substitute teacher on the day it happened, so Ms. Confetti didn’t know if the taunting continued onto the playground or in the classroom later that day. (It didn’t.) AND because the Tongginator seemed very out-of-sorts yesterday, even going so far as to create this little gem during morning work time:

Morning Work: How are you feeling today and
why? “I feel sad because I miss my mommy.”

Ms. Confetti actually called the Tongginator out of art class yesterday afternoon to talk with her about the situation. Then she called M1 and M2 (not in any way related to M3 … I mean, in case you wondered about that) out of art class as well. Ms. Confetti prompted the Tongginator to share how she felt about the lunchroom incident, then asked the girls their version of the events.

Thankfully, they told the truth. And it lined up with the Tongginator’s version of events almost exactly.

Mrs. Confetti then helped the girls talk it out, with both M1 and M2 required to apologize to the Tongginator for saying what they said. And that was it. Which I actually think is appropriate, given that the girls are just five- and six-years-old and exploring the boundaries of power and friendship and differences and manners. And because – having been a teacher myself – I know what a HUGE DEAL it is to young elementary school students to be PULLED OUT OF CLASS to talk with a teacher. It was a good teaching moment for everyone, including the Tongginator, who learned that it’s okay to speak up and that those types of comments are NOT acceptable.

Now if these girls had been six or seven years older… WATCH OUT.

Because, believe you me, you do NOT want to make Tonggu Momma angry.

(Remember the – ahem - shoe throwing incident?)

Do I think that Ms. Confetti actually got the racial undertones of the entire incident? Actually… I don’t… not fully, anyway. Then again, even I don’t believe that M1 or M2 intended to racially taunt the Tongginator. In fact, if all they had said was that the Tongginator’s food looked like throw-up, I probably would have comforted the Tongginator and walked her through responses if it happened again, but I would not have contacted her teacher. But M1 and M2 didn’t say just that… they said that it “was Chinese food and it looked like throw-up.” And therein lay the difference.

(especially since it wasn’t even Chinese food… it was homemade hash browns… and, although they are a healthier version, with equal parts shredded potato, carrots and zucchini, they pretty much look like hash browns that you can purchase at McDonalds)

Now… that doesn’t mean I think these two little gals are racist. Because, goodness, y’all, they’re in KINDERGARTEN. I believe that they saw food that looked different (code for “wasn’t a sandwich”) and they decided it looked weird and, therefore, like throw-up. And I believe they didn’t have a reference for that “different” food, so they assumed that the Tongginator ate it because she was born in China, which is also “different” from them.

End of story.

Except that doesn’t mean it wasn’t unintentionally racist: her food was “different” and she is “different” because she was born in China; therefore, the food must be “Chinese food.” And yes, the Tongginator told the girls it wasn’t Chinese food, but they argued with her and insisted that it was. Regardless, even if you personally don’t feel that falls into the category of racism, the Tongginator FELT that it did, even though she didn’t have the vocabulary to accurately label it. (All I did was provide the word… she described the feelings perfectly.) I don’t know that Ms. Confetti fully got that.

Then again, five or ten years ago, I don’t think I would have gotten it either.

You see the world through new eyes when racism directly effects a loved one.

I’m still okay with her teacher’s response though. Because Ms. Confetti addressed the comments and the hurt feelings. And, having been a teacher, I know she wrote letters home to the other parents because she didn’t simply talk to the girls, she pulled them out of class to do so. And the racial aspects of the comment didn’t go ignored because I addressed the racism. And the Tongginator felt heard and empowered and is happy again to go to school. AND she’s decided she’s gonna eat those hash browns even if other people think it looks like throw up.

So there to them.

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