Our five-year-old keeps asking me; “do I look like my friend?” She is referring to her best friend at school who she adores and who she will not physically let go of when it’s time for pick up. Lately, she has been focused on whether they look alike. Her friend is Chinese and much different looking than her. I empathize with her desire to want to look like a friend and to share everything with this friend. I remember being a little girl and wanting to look like my friends and thinking that this would make us closer. It took me well into adulthood to recognize the beauty of having friends that look different and being able to talk about it.
I continue to tell my five-year-old that “you don’t have to look like your friends to be close,” trying to be concrete as possible. But I continue to question myself about these conversations. It’s hard to piece together most of what my five-year-old is thinking because in one conversation she wants to look like her best friend and in a different conversation she wants “blonde hair and blue eyes.” What a confusing world she is living in! She wants to look like the person she loves but is seeing blonde hair and blue eyes as a commodity in the media she is viewing.
I also question my parenting at these times and how to have a conversation about race, racism, and allyship. I believe that some allyship is organic to the relationship my daughter shares with her friend simply based on her undying love for her friend. But I also see that they haven’t hit the hard parts of life where differences become a way of taking power from someone else. I like to think of my daughter as an ally in these situations but know I have to educate my daughter on what being an ally means. I also don’t know how to explain the present and increasing violence against the AAPI community to a five-year-old. I say this with the understanding that the conversations I am having with my child are incomparable to the conversations that the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community are having with their families, communities, and the country at large. Here are some resources that helped me to explain to my daughter the concept of race, racism, and what being an ally looks and feels like. I hope they help other parents considering recent, past, and ongoing events.