In which we talk about confronting “weird questions” (or racial microagressions) with a little help from … an alien
When I started hearing buzz about Mike Jung’s middle-grade novel, Unidentified Suburban Object, I moved it to the top of my list of books to read with my eleven- and ten-year-old children, Stevie and Caroline. It ended up giving us one of the most meaningful shared readings I’ve ever had as a mom. A favorite moment occurred at the big reveal (spoiler alert) when middle-school-aged protagonist Chloe Cho discovers that her parents did not emigrate to the United States from Korea as they’d always told her; they escaped from a doomed planet and are … aliens. When I read the scene with Chloe’s revelation about her extraterrestrial heritage with my kids, Stevie shook his head back and forth as if rattling his brain around in his skull and said:
Experts in conversation with parents and educators
Listen to the full conversation or read an edited transcript below. EmbraceRace co-founders Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud frame and moderate this discussion between child psychologist Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith, educator Dr. Sandra “Chap” Chapman, and a group of parents, teachers, and other caregivers concerned about black and brown children.
I’m looking for something else.
People of mixed races float between cultures. There’s usually one side of our heritage we identify more with, and then there’s the other side. It’s like a custody visit when I experience the food, art, people and spaces associated with my other half. It’s a relationship. It’s fluid. There are negotiated terms and there’s an agenda for each interaction.
Consider my dismay when I was recently handed a fork while saddling up to a sushi bar. Not a big deal if you’re a non-Asian person who’s actually capable of using chopsticks — you just ask for chopsticks. For me, however, the mere presentation of a fork, specifically to me after seeing my face, is a disappointment. The gesture communicates that I’m not capable of handling this simple Asian thing, regardless of my ethnicity.
I have struggled to find words to express what I thought and felt as I watched the videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile being killed by the police. Last night, I wanted to say something that hasn’t been said a hundred times before. It finally dawned on me that there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said before. As I was preparing to write about the oldness of all of this, and share some wisdom passed down from struggles of earlier eras, I heard on the news that 11 officers had been shot in Dallas, several killed from sniper fire. My fingers froze on the keys. I could not bring myself to recycle old truths. Something more is required. But what?