“You gotta open your eyes when you ski,” I was told after I fell hard while skiing down a steep hill.
I was stunned at such a racial joke aimed at Asians and their stereotypical slanted eyes. He saw my expression of disbelief and maybe realized he shouldn’t have said that, but he didn’t excuse himself either.
“I was just joking,” he laughed it off.
I didn’t say a word. I probably should have though, but at the moment my brain somehow couldn’t function from the shock that a teacher would say something like that.
As much as European countries can be extremely diverse, racism still exists, even in such a globalized and modernized world. I saw it for the first time I visited Paris in 2013, when a policeman said to us in English that he doesn’t speak English and basically refused to give us directions to our desired destination.
For starters, I speak from personal experience. But there are so much other cases that I’ve heard about, even in my own school here, not just aimed towards Asians, but other origins too. However, for privacy issues I prefer not to tell their stories.
What really surprises me is the fact that racial comments are more often made by adults than supposedly less mature teenagers. From what I’ve seen, people my age are actually more accepting towards other cultures, and never hesitate to learn more about them and experience them when they can.
I’ve had a little kid ask me if all Chinese people had eyes like “this”, while she put her fingers to the outer corners of her eyes and pulled to make them small and slanted.
“Look at me, do I have eyes like that?” I said.
“No,” she replied after some observation.
“So do you think all Chinese people have eyes like that?”
In fact it doesn’t really bother me when little children say things related to racial stereotypes, because it’s part of the initial process of learning to differ between different races. When they get older, they’d meet people that come from all over the world and realize that stereotypes aren’t always true. Just like when the little girl met me, the first Chinese she has met in her life, and saw for herself that Asian physical appearances are not always like the image she had in her mind.
But I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at the adults who still think racial discrimination is no big deal. Adults are supposed to be our role models, and I’m sure being racist isn’t a trait that children should be taking after. It is also the responsibility of adults to make it clear to the younger ones that making racist comments is rude and unacceptable.
On the other hand, social media might’ve also subconsciously put some stereotypes inside the minds of children. Disney portraits Mulan with slanted eyes, but it is in fact very exaggerated and rarely anyone has physical traits like that.
Personally I haven’t been met with extreme racism in France, and the little incidents that did happen to me were also pretty rare. However, what is most important is that one must not be discouraged just because they were the center of a joke or mean comment based on their ethnicity. What we should do is to stay confident and show the world that we are not less worthy than others.