Being othered, or outright discriminated against, puts you on the spot. You don’t know how to react, and you make a million instant mental calculations about the other person, their possible intentions, the context, the power dynamic. It can trigger a fight, flight or freeze response that you later regret. It’s stressful and complicated, even if you’ve been experiencing it your whole life.
But what if you’re three?
That’s the question at the heart of this conversation between host Charlene Buckles and Melanie Parker, a Filipina Kentuckian who grew up in Whitesburg.
Charlene tells the story of a friend whose half-Black, half-Asian toddler was approached at the zoo by an adult who asked him where he’s from. “This is something that I still go back and forth on talking to my son about. because he’s only three,” she says. “I thought I had a few more years to even start talking about these questions that people might ask him.”
Melanie’s oldest son is just about the same age. “I think you and I are well equipped to answer that question now. We’ve gone through it. We have the grit. We know the nuances of that question,” Melanie says. “But I immigrated here when I was six. They’re three. It’s a lot. It’s a lot to consider. Amidst potty training, making sure they wear their mask, is answering that question: Where are you from?”
The episode dives into the difference between racial legacy (which Charlene describes as “what our parents have essentially taught us: It’s okay, you’re fine, you’re gonna be fine. This happens to us, and just take it in stride”) and racial literacy–the ability to examine racialized situations, process them and react authentically. And Melanie recites the lovely list of affirmations she shares with her son.
Listen to the episode:
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“Where Y’all Really From” is part of the Louisville Public Media Podcast Incubator. We get support from the Community Foundation of Louisville, Podchaser, Rankings.io and the Eye Care Institute’s Butchertown Clinical Trials.