Teaching kids about Anti-Asian hate
This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and author of A Kids Book About Anti-Asian Hate, Kim Pham. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
What is anti-Asian hate?
Anti-Asian hate is when people treat you unfairly by making mean comments or physically abusing you just based on being Asian.
Figuring out how to respond when tragic and traumatic events are happening around you can be really difficult for all of us. Often these events don’t make sense because you wouldn’t ever imagine doing something like that yourself. And yet violence against certain communities, including those in the Asian-American Pacific Islander community, occurs at alarming rates and in nearly every corner of our country and also throughout the world.
Sometimes it's unintentional. Sometimes people don't know that they're being mean or rude to other people and sometimes they do know. It's just that it's a hard thing to figure out sometimes. It's kind of complicated.
It is hard because, much like all forms of racism, anti-Asian hate is not always obvious or intentional. Sometimes people are acting on their biases, meaning that they’re showing preference for one group of people over another because of how they look or dress, what language they speak, or really any other reason.
Growing up, some kids would ask me, “Hey, where are you from? Are you from China? Japan? Korea?” And those are like the most common Asian countries that kids know. But when I tell them, “Oh, I'm from Vietnam.” They're like, “Oh, okay. Like, that's cool. But I don't know where that is.” They're not trying to be rude or anything, but they just don't know. There's so much more Asian countries and Asian cultures out there than just, you know, three countries.
Or as a kid, they would make fun of me for my name. My name sounds funny.
My real name is Thu Kim Pham, but I don't want to go by Thu cause that sounds weird and it's not common. It's not like a beautiful girl's name, like Karen or Crystal or I don't know, Michelle, so I just wanted to blend in and I decided to go by my middle name to make it easier.
One of our listeners shares her reflection.
Kid Question: I know that there are people who want to help and so I hope this can reach them.
I also hope that this reaches the Asian community to let them know that they, too, have a voice.
No matter how silenced they feel, I want to help them feel empowered. I want to do my part to spread awareness about Anti-Asian hate so that I can help those who are struggling make themselves heard.
The question I do have is “What are all the ways that I can help the Asian community?” I want to do as much as I can within my power as a 15 year old, but I’m unsure of all of the things that I can do.
I think we need to be specific about it, to bring awareness to people that it's happening. If we don't call it for what it is, and it just gets lost in the news or in the grand scheme of things and we were not learning to address that, there is a problem happening right now. So it's definitely important to see it and to recognize it. And, and then hopefully from there we can take action and fix it somehow.
Sometimes we make choices to help us navigate the world more easily. To help not be asked so many questions, as rude as these questions might be, because it’s easier to just be accepted than to try and change the question it feels like everyone is asking.
As a kid, I didn't really think too much about it. I was just trying to be honest and just, “Hey, I'm Vietnamese, I'm from Vietnam.” But I think as you get older and the more times people ask you, then it kind of becomes like, Why do they keep asking me this? Why does it even matter where I come from?
And as a kid, it's not like it comes from a place of trying to be mean or anything. Kids just honestly wouldn’t know and that's about it. But as an adult, it becomes a little more complex, I guess. I don’t know. I’m still trying to process that.
Kim is an adult and these interactions that started back when she was a young child are still things that she questions. And so when we talk about experiencing anti-Asian hate, you can tell it’s something that Kim is still trying to wrap her thoughts around.
I have experienced it in a backhanded way or just like, “Oh, I didn't know” kind of way, but nothing to the point where it's like directed at me or like where I'm told to like “go back to where you come from” or where there's physical violence directed at me. So, yes I have, but just not like very overtly and openly.
We know you’re ready to talk about these big topics, kids, but for those grownups who are not quite sure how or where to start, Kim offers this advice.
I think my advice would be to just try and remember a time when you were treated unfairly and just share it with your child. It doesn't have to be anything big, just something small where you can talk about how it made you feel and what the other person said or did to you. Just be able to provide a safe environment to talk about these things, I would say.
And honestly, just be real, you know? Kids will understand. And then you can just go from there and maybe you'll find something in common with your kids.
With my parents coming over from Vietnam, there's like a language and cultural barrier. And so they're coming over to America, not speaking English very well. And then my primary language is only speaking English, so it's kind of already hard to communicate to my parents what's going on and how do I explain this to them where they can understand.
And then another part of it is I'm also really shy and introverted. So that's another layer.
And then for my parents, they sacrificed a lot to come over to America. And so I feel like it's my responsibility to be a good daughter and to get good grades and that's all that matters, you know? Like nothing else really matters. So just study hard and work hard and you'll make us happy.
We're not really a family that discusses hard topics or really talks about anything difficult. So to talk about racism or anything else that happens at school or anywhere else, it's really difficult.
Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. This week we spoke with Kim Pham, author of A Kids Book About Anti-Asian Hate.