November 3, 2011

It's not OK to post pictures of your Asian child making “Chinese eyes”

As Mei-Ling said, I can’t let this one pass. And you are right, Mei-Ling, my head is now bruised from banging it on my desk all morning. Thank you for alerting me, and for passing on Resist Racism's and Joy's posts in response.

The subject is an adoptive parent’s post of a photo of her child making the “Chinese eyes” gesture (not linking, don't want traffic from there). Still can't wrap my head around what could possibly have been in this woman's mind when she pressed <ENTER> . Equally shocking were the comments declaring the photo “cute.” It's all so wrong, on so many levels, that I hardly know where to begin.

I shouldn’t have to point out that the gesture is so clearly racist that the family should have known instinctively that it wasn't blog fodder. For the child's sake, it should have been handled with seriousness and care. Posting is as if were something that could be chuckled over and then dismissed is an insult to the little girl and a slap in the face to every Asian American.

This all reminded me of the time my five-year-old son came home from school and ran around the house saying “Chinese eyes! Chinese eyes!” It took a couple of seconds to sink in, after which I got a very sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t cute, it wasn’t something to pretend away, and it certainly wasn’t something to take a picture of and plaster on the internet.

It was racism, brought to my family by kindergarteners, the children of the people in my child’s community. And it deserved to be addressed carefully.  Before the adoptive parents in the house tell me for the gazillionth time that I take these things too seriously: don't mistake serious for scary.  It is possible to talk to our kids about difficult, painful subjects in ways that empower our kids rather than frighten them.  Adoptive parents who deny this need to get their heads out of the sand.

The comments following the post demonstrate clearly that ignorance and racism are thriving. I find the fact that the blog's author seems to write to attract this population truly bizarre. Sadly, what I see in the future of the non-white children in this family is a life filled with adoption celebrations and culture tourism, but precious little preparation for the racism they will, without question, experience.

I challenge the author of the blog to reflect on how she will feel 20 years hence when her adult daughter stumbles onto this photo and wonders why it was on the internet. You hold your daughter’s privacy in trust – respect it.