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Rep. Andy Kim shares struggle of talking racism with 5-yr-old son who experienced first act of racism

The congressman explained that the incident brought back memories of racism he endured as a youngster.

Rep. Andy Kim shares struggle of talking racism with 5-yr-old son who experienced first act of racism
Cover Image Source: Twitter/Andy Kim

New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim took to Twitter a couple of months ago to share a disturbing incident that happened to his 5-year-old son at school. The congressman revealed that his son had been repeatedly been called "Chinese boy" by a bigger child in what he believed was "likely his first ever experience of discrimination." While the young boy didn't identify it as racism, Kim explained in the viral thread that the incident brought back memories of racism he endured as a youngster. "My 5-year-old boy came home and asked me why bigger kid kept calling him 'Chinese Boy.' My son, confused, told the boy 'I'm a New Jersey Boy.' He laughed it off but my eyes welled up," Kim tweeted.



"50 years ago, my parents immigrated here but we cannot shake the shadow of foreignness," he continued. "I was sad because my son shared what was likely his first ever experience of discrimination. For me, it wasn't the first time I heard bias about him. People told me he has cute slanty Chinese eyes or it's great we teach him English as primary lang as if our default is foreigner. When someone joked about whether he was born knowing Kung Fu, it reminded me of the Jackie Chan taunts I got that started 'innocent' but then turned dangerous as I got older and found myself attacked by drunk men seeking to prove their strength by beating up 'Jackie Chan.'"



Kim, who is the second Korean American elected to Congress in the country's history, admitted that he didn't know how to explain the incident to his son. "WHAT DO I SAY? I was sad because I know this won't be his last time facing racism," he tweeted. "Other times will likely be worse and potentially violent. As a Congressman, I sadly know there is no law I can pass that will protect him fully. I'll be honest, I didn't know what to tell him." Kim recalled how journalist Jonathan Capehart had asked him if his parents ever gave him "the talk" and if he would do that with his kids.



"The racism AAPIs face is different from the Black community, so conversations would be different, but I started to think about how I should talk to my kids," the congressman wrote. "I would want them to hear some of the hurtful words that they may hear from me and their mom first, hoping that might take out some of the bite. I would want to tell them some of the struggles that I faced so they know it happens to others. But what else should I say? I told [Capehart] my parents never talked to me when I was a child about discrimination I might face. I called my mom yesterday to seek her thoughts. She told me she wished she had the words then to prepare me. I asked my mom what she would want to tell me as a kid."



"My mom said she would tell me about racism I may face and then follow up with 'You are very special. Keep being yourself. You are never alone. Whatever problems come, let us know and we will go through together.' The opposite of feeling foreign is to be loved in a community," Kim continued. "I reassured my mom that she raised me well and with the strength to face down discrimination. She and I then talked about what we think the boys are taking away from growing up during this moment of immense chaos in our nation where racism is so out in the open?"



"We both agreed that when I talk to my boys about racism they might face that I should also raise the racism/hate that others face," he explained. "I would tell them that we stand against discrimination in all forms. Want them to know both their vulnerabilities and their privileges... I will teach them the names of George Floyd along with Hyun Jung Grant (Korean American mom killed in ATL). The type of racism/discrimination that AAPIs face is different than others communities of color. We have different types of 'talks.' But we stand up for all. I'm going to get ready to have that talk with my son. I'm a bit nervous. He's such a sweet boy and I don't know how he will take it. He's 5 so I won't go into everything but I think it's good to get the conversation started as they grow up fast."



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