You say that your daughter wishes to withdraw from school. She feels insulted by two upper-grade students. A recent school event caused the two to make fun of a type of Asian eye structure. They directed their comments to your daughter who is one of the few Asian Americans in her school.
As I understand it, her middle school sponsored a spirit rally. Students were instructed to dress and act like members of ancient Asian tribes. The purpose was to increase appreciation of the accomplishments of early Asian peoples and the immense value of their contributions to world cultural development. Dressing as explorers, pioneers, emperors, scientists, farmers, weavers, and traders, students also wore makeup to change their facial appearances. The two older students poked fun at your daughter’s eye structure, laughing, and saying they could take their “slant eye” makeup off and she could not.
Instead of allowing your daughter to withdraw from school, which teaches her to flee from controversy, why not teach her to confront those who have offended her? Your additional job will be to talk to school authorities and suggest ways children can be taught tolerance and avoid stereotypic thinking.
Here are some TOOLS to try:
SMILE TOOL: Teach your daughter to smile at people who make ignorant comparisons.
STARE TOOL: Teach her to look directly into the eyes of the other persons.
WORD TOOL: Using statements, you and your daughter could practice what to say in situations like the one she experienced. Here are examples, but you will want to make up your own:
“I like my eyes.”
“You must like my eyes if you drew them on your own face.”
“I was born with these eyes.”
“I didn’t choose them, but I love them.”
“My eyes work just like yours.”
“I’m lucky to have eyes that work, and so are you.”
“Eyes are portals to the brain.”
WALK-AWAY TOOL: Teach her to turn and walk away.
Finally, make an appointment with your daughter’s homeroom teacher. Discuss the situation. Ask the teacher to go with you to meet with the principal or other school authority. Give positive, concrete suggestions for teaching tolerance and building healthy relationships among students. For example: form a student committee to organize school-wide unity activities. For helpful ideas visit www.tolerance.org/mix-it-up/activities Finally, if your schedule allows, offer to assist with school tolerance projects.
Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Poking fun is never funny.