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Are There Any Other Asian Kids In Your Class?

Why I'm not going to ask my daughter about diversity in her classroom.

It's back-to-school season and with it comes a healthy dose of excitement mixed with nerves, and that's just for the kids. As multicultural parents, these emotions can be magnified since we've been there done that, and know firsthand what it's like going to school as a minority. Most kids just want to fit in, and when physical attributes or religious practices or family culture make our children stand out, we as parents worry.

After my daughter's first day of school, I know that I'll be asking the same questions as pretty much every other parent around the world:

How was your first day of school? Is your teacher nice? Did you make any new friends? What did you learn? What was your favorite part about school today?

But one question I'm not going to ask is, "Are there any other Asian kids in your class?".

It Can Encourage Cultural Bias

What I may mean to be a question to ensure her safety and happiness at school (yes, racism can exist in young classrooms, and bullying definitely does), she might interpret as cultural preference.

By singling out an ethnicity, this question hints that there's something special about being Asian, and with her being so young it can confuse her into wondering if that "something" makes her better or worse than others. If she does have Asian classmates, their cultural background does not make them better than the other kids in her class. It's also not a prerequisite for her to sit by them during snack time or play with them during recess.

I don't want her to grow up with the mindset that race should be a factor in whether or not she gets to know someone. That's where cultural bias, stereotypes, and even racism can stem from!

Ethnicity shouldn't be a dividing factor, so why would I ask her to do that exact thing to her classmates?

It Can Discourage Natural Friendships

In elementary school I didn't know of any other Asians in my grade, then in middle school I knew of one, and high school knew of four. Does that mean I was friendless in elementary school? Absolutely not! In fact, I probably had more friends in elementary school than any other time in my life, because when you're young you tend to focus more on what you have in common with people.

While common cultures can be a great foundation for friendship, there are so many other factors that come into play. By asking her if there are any other Asians in her class, I am subtly implying that for that reason alone she should be friends with them. But there's so much more that goes into a friendship!

So, it really doesn't matter if there are other Asian kids in my daughter's class. What should matter is if there are kids in my daughter's class with similar interests, intellectual levels, and kindness levels as her because those friendships will come naturally and will be more meaningful to her.

It Can Encourage Cultural Categorization

Ethnicity shouldn't be a dividing factor, so why would I ask her to do that exact thing to her classmates?

Any question regarding the ethnic diversity of her class encourages categorizing individuals based on their race, something I don't want to encourage! By asking this question, I'm teaching my daughter to focus on physical similarities and differences which is a very superficial way of learning about race.

When children are young, they really don't recognize ethnicity as a dividing factor. I love reading stories about children from two different ethnicities wearing the same clothes to school on twin day and then being shocked that the teacher could tell them apart. I hope that's the kind of vision I can encourage in my daughter, the one where she can see individuals for who they are. If that involves a similar cultural background as her, then great. If that involves a different cultural background than her, then that's great too.

We'll of course have the talk about bullying to help her recognize if she's participating in or receiving any unwanted behavior from her classmates, but my hope is that she can have positive multicultural experiences at school. With my own multicultural background, I've learned that being exposed to diversity benefits everyone. She'll get to share her culture with her classmates and in turn, will get to learn about theirs throughout the school year.


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