Monday, May 04, 2009

Taekwondo Kid

I don't focus much on my cultural background. Having grown up in Canada at a time when most “non-white” families were looking to integrate rather than hang on too tightly to cultural roots, I consider myself more Canadian than anything else. We do partake in the big Chinese celebrations such as Chinese New Year, and honouring our ancestors every year, but even my own mother forgets sometimes that although I don’t speak a lot of Cantonese, I do happen to understand most of it.

My Dad never had a Chinese accent; if there was anything regional in his voice, it was more reminiscent of Quebecois accented English, as he grew up in Quebec. My mom’s accent is a combination of everywhere she’s been since she was a kid, so very hard to pinpoint, but you know she’s Asian.

Even when we were first dating, my husband didn’t know what my background was. I think it was on our third or fourth date when he asked “What ARE you anyway?” (Of course it didn’t come out the way it’s written, it was quite a bit funnier).

This isn’t to say that I don’t consider myself Chinese and that I haven’t experienced my own share of racism as a kid. Besides being bullied for being a skinny thing with high marks and bad teeth and acne, I’m sure some of it was racially motivated. "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at ..." I could count the number of Asian kids in my public school with my two hands, and that included my younger sister. But I had hoped that this would have changed in today's Canada, where "Smith" is no longer the predominant name in the phone book.

So it sickens me to read of the recent goings-on in a community not far from where I live.

Long story not so short: a white kid utters a racial slur and punches a Korean kid in the mouth; the Korean kid, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, hits back in self-defence and busts the instigator's nose. The Korean boy, a top student, gets arrested and suspended, and sent a letter from the Principal, threatened with expulsion not only from the school but the ENTIRE SCHOOL DISTRICT. I think the other boy was suspended as well, but I’m not sure. The Vice Principal wonders why the Korean kid was so sensitive to being called “Chinese” (oops, what about the “f*cking” part??). The instigator's cousin, it is learned later, also hurled racial slurs at the Korean boy the day after the fight.

The student body rallies in protest over the suspension of the Korean boy, 400 kids demonstrating against the school administration, wanting to send the message that racism and intolerance is not cool. The mother of the Korean boy meets with the Vice Principal and suggests anti-racism be part of the school curriculum. The VP thinks it unnecessary as the topic is covered in “geography class”. The police have reopened the case as a possible hate crime, after the school demonstration. To be continued.

Are you enraged? Certainly at the racist kid and his family who are so stunningly caught in the backwoods with their attitudes. Not at the kids in the school, who totally get it. But what is with the “adults” in this situation? The school administration, who launched this expulsion nonsense and who I’m sure would have loved to have swept this under the table, were it not for the student protesters who are actually living the principles that are supposedly withheld in their school. I know there is "zero tolerance" for violence and rightly so in our schools, but to have one party punished so severely when the bully who started it skulks off silently the other way without any penalty (well, other than the damaged septum)? To be further investigated only after all the damage has been done to the initial injured party? What about zero tolerance for racial discrimination? Talk about being totally black and white and illogical in a situation that screamed shades of grey.

I've been hopeful that my kids are growing up in a world where race ceases to be such an issue. But perhaps I've just turned a blind eye. I just have to look at the recent election in the US to realize that - duh - while on the surface there seems to have been great strides made, it will never, ever go away. My kids are in a very multicultural school and if anything, being of mixed race, are an example of the future generations, symbolic of the meeting of cultures. To them, if someone's white, brown, black, yellow, green, red... it doesn't matter. It's stories like these that illlustrate the often hostile environment that they are growing up in, that concerns me.

What do you think the chances are that this was far from an isolated incident for this boy? This doesn't happen overnight. There's a limit to how many times you can walk away. Much talk and commentary about this story has voiced that the race card is being tossed in again as convenient, to make it an even bigger issue than it really is. However, that is indeed what started it, and the issue of racial discrimination IS a huge one.

I suppose I should be a good Mom and say that retaliation in this form is never the way to go. But honestly, in looking back at my childhood, if I had the extra minutes in my already jammed extracurricular schedule, it may not have been a bad thing for Mom to have included martial arts in the mix. There were several kids I knew growing up who deserved a good lesson or two.

Being the nice, quiet, studious Asian who will just keep taking it and not do a thing is a stereotype that has long run its course.

Good on ya, kid.

(Edited to add: as my blog pal Cid has indicated, apparently the expulsion letter was sent in ERROR. I don't know if that makes the situation any better, or even worse...)


Mrs4444 said...

I totally understand the "Karate Kid's response and believe it was justified. Had the other kid been a better puncher and knocked out a tooth, this might be a non-issue. I think he got off easy. Jerk!

Tara R. said...

Incidents like this really make me mad. The adults in this dropped the ball and made a bad situation worse. I agree with Forz, the other kid got off easy, too easy.

Midwest Mommy said...

Ugh, this is so sad. I can't blame the kid for responding the way he did. I am interested to see how this story ends.

louann said...

I would have done the same. I'm probably saying this because I am Asian and have been discriminated against so many times. But yeah, I believe that what the taekwondo kid did was justified.

Badness Jones said...

I don't know if it will ever go away, but I'm glad that there are so many kids willing to stand up for a classmate. I think that schools need to take a stand on this - bullying and insults and slurs, whether about race or not, cause a lot more lasting damage than a broken nose ever could.

Knatolee said...

The one thing that heartens me is the fact that the student body rose up against the racism!! The principal is an IDIOT. I hope they drop the charges.

I went to art camp in Keswick in 1976. It seemed like the back of beyond to me then. I'm surprised but glad that the kids are as enlightened as they are about racism.

Knatolee said...

Check this out:

Scroll down to the comment by Andy Chan, who posts the school's and other addresses, and suggests a letter-writing campaign. Great idea!

Kim said...

Holy Geez.. I cannot get over this story.. I too cannot blame the kid for how he responded.. if you can.. post an update to this story.. what an effing arse that Principal is ..

Cid said...

When I read about this in the paper onthe weekend my jaw dropped. What the hell happened to the principal, the school board and every bureaucrat between them? Their short-sightedness, no blindness to the real issue is unbelievable. To top it all off the parents recieved the letter informing them of their child's expulsion from the entire board by mistake. The board had backed off on it but some flunky printed it out, had some other flunky sign it, called a courier and had it delivered to the family. No one has apologized to them.

Kat said...

It seems to me that the principal is a complete idiot and a dolt. I understand that in a fight both kids are punished because otherwise it turns into a he said/she said about who started it and yadda yadda but come on. It sounds like there may have been witnesses there to back up the karate kid's story. Thank goodness the kids at school are backing the kid up even if the idiot principal isn't.

A similar thing (though not racial in any way) happened to my hubby in grade school. Some kids were bullying and beating up his best friend so my hubby put a stop to it by beating them up. My hubby got in trouble but the other kids didn't. What is that all about? Does the one who wins the fight get punished the most severe? I'm confused.

Yes. Fighting is wrong, but I'm sorry, you throw a punch at me you'd better expect to get one back. And, I can't stand bullies. Little shits.

melissa said...

i'm a minority. so i totally understand how it feels to have people make comments. i got beaten up in middle school, with the girl calling me a dirty jew. i get it. and when i got dad taught me how to fight back. and told me that if i had to fight then i had to fight. and if i got in trouble defending myself, then so be it.
that kid got off way, way too easy. that sucks.

Laski said...

YOU are doing the right thing. You know, I don't think I'm a big fan of "tolerance"--I mean, what the heck does that imply--TO TOLERATE. Ergh.

How about pure, unadulterated acceptance. I ask for too much, huh?

"The VP thinks it unnecessary as the topic is covered in “geography class”. UNNECESSARY. You know, I can't think of anything MORE NECESSARY.

Momisodes said...

As someone who has been in very similar shoes, this story saddens me. Like you, I wished that throughout our lifetime, things would have changed. Evolved. That is tragic how the PRINCIPAL of the school has dealt with this. I am glad that the students are up in arms. This IS unfair.

Brandy said...

I disagree with the "zero tolerance" policy, not because I'm advocate for violence, but more because it gave the schools even more reason NOT to use COMMON SENSE.

Now everything gets snowballed under this policy and no matter what the situation or reason the kids are punished the same. I'm sorry but the bully deserves to be punished more than someone who was simply defending himself.

Sadly, race, religion, sex and millions of other things will always be a factor to some people in order to judge others. Even though it's not as widespread now, I don't believe it will ever be eliminated. The human race is definitely flawed.

Great post! I just wanted to stop by and thank you for your kind words this morning.

Huckdoll said...

I'm just going to go against the grain and general subject here and say, “What ARE you anyway?” had me laughing my ass off. Just as funny here :)

bec said...

Very well said.

Brandy sums up what I was going to say.

"What ARE you anyway" made me laugh, too.

You know what, I see small incidents of a perpretator provoking the 'victim' and then the victim retaliating. I nickname these two online, in no particular order, ds and dd. And when it happens, neither are innocent and it's dealt with on a case by case basis. :)

FishermansDaughter said...

I am not an advocate of slurs or violence - however - after recently viewing a news story detailing how two separate 11 year old boys HUNG themselves after being mercilessly bullied at school - I stood up and cheered reading your story - P.C. b.s. be dammed - a good ole' fashioned ass whuppin is EXACTLY what that trash talking racist punk deserved.

Wing Sayuki said...

I'm always mistaken for chinese and it does get annoying. Anyway I think the bully was let off to easy. He hit the korean kid first, just the korean kid hit harder and knew what he was doing.


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