So I was walking past a group of kindergarteners waiting for the bus when a little white boy says, “Are you CHINESE?”
My experience: Often this is not a friendly gesture from a white kid. It’s said in a sneering tone of voice. And it seems to exemplify just how early kids learn their presumptions of racial superiority.
But this time, conscious of all the little eyes on me, I answered him. And then I asked him,
What are you?
He was really taken aback. And then he said, “I’m AMERICAN.” I replied, “I know you’re American. I’m American too. But what else are you?”
A sunny little girl jumped into the conversation: “I know what I am! I’m Scottish! And I’m also English! And Ukrainian!” So I told her that was great. And then I turned to the little boy again and said, “So what are YOU?”
He was losing all his bluster, and the little girl said, “Yes, what ARE you?”
As I was walking away, a little kid came running hell-for-leather. But then he saw me and came screeching to a halt. He bowed and said, “Annyonghaseyo.” So I greeted him in return and walked away smiling. That really made my day.