Anti-Asian Prejudice: Another Westporter’s View

An “06880” reader writes:

The recent “06880” posts about racism against Asians in Westport prompt me to write about an incident involving my son and another middle schooler. This incident was awful for our family, and I had been determined to keep it private.

Today however, I’m hoping it will become something that informs and furthers a dialogue about racial intolerance.

Last year, beginning in the fall, my son was bullied on his bus by a boy 2 years older. The bullying included racial slurs like “I’m going to tear off your head and dumplings will fall out,” and playing loud, screeching music with Asian-sounding lyrics while telling my son it was the music of “his people.”

Prejudice against Asians in Westport is not as overt as this. But it is absolutely here.

I reached out to this boy’s mother. She made him write a letter of apology to my son. She also  insisted they come to our home to apologize in person. They came to our home, he apologized, and we were happy the matter was settled.

Months later I learned the bullying had not stopped.

In early March, the public schools announced they would close for 2 weeks due to COVID. The kids got onto the buses for what would become their last ride that year.

The same boy came up to my son and asked, “Do you know how COVID is transmitted?” Then he spit on my son. The kids who witnessed the spitting laughed.

To this day, no one from the school system has reached out to offer my son closure.

Again, I have no interest in escalating emotions, pointing fingers or organizing a witch hunt. I only write this to stress the importance of education in schools about racial intolerance. And, perhaps, bullying.

20 responses to “Anti-Asian Prejudice: Another Westporter’s View

  1. Paul Thomson

    The kid needs to be thrown out of school, now! There is no other answer to this particular incident.

  2. Stephen M. Axthelm

    Please don’t leave this alone. There must be consequences for this. Covid or not the school system needs to investigate this incident and hold that kid accountable.

  3. I am sadly not surprised at this story. Despite a so called zero-tolerance policy, bullying is common in our school system, as it is in most. Whether it’s colored by racial and ethnic stereotyping and hate, or just preying upon the weak and vulnerable, it reveals an ugly truth about this progressive community. We need to teach our children not only that racism and “othering” is bad, but that all targeting of others is wrong and damaging to all of us. Obviously, the child bullied suffers, sometimes with lasting trauma that can have long reaching effects into adulthood. But everyone witness to that, and the inexcusable lack of reaction is also wronged. They have learned that it’s ok to marginalize and diminish another human being. They have also learned that if they are the victim, there is little help for them. And that’s a terrible lesson to learn in our schools and in our town. I feel sorrow and anger that these stories are real and happening now, right here. People like to say, “we don’t have those problems here.” But Westport isn’t immune to the failures of the human character. And our children are telling us that, consistently. Better we acknowledge it, and then work to make it better.

  4. Priscilla A. Long

    Thank you, Dan, for telling this story. Frankly, I feel like crying. These ‘children’, who are making these slurs, are hearing it somewhere. I wonder where …? It is horrifying to me that in a community like ours, where people are well educated, that comments like this are heard. We need more opportunities for dialogue – such as the one that TEAM Westport is having tonight. Unfortunately, often times, those who need to listen, do not. Centuries of prejudice do not go aways overnight. But, we still have to keep trying. Thank you for your continued support of overcoming these racist issues.

  5. Robert Grodman

    It is horrifying to hear that something like that could happen in Westport. I am ashamed and disturbed that that could happen a second time. We really are better than that. Certainly we must look at the parents to set the proper example. How could that happen after the child was spoken to and had to write a letter of apology?

  6. Leslie Riback

    I agree that schools are responsible for educating students, but what is most important is the education a child receives at home from family and parents. The combination of racial intolerance and bullying are lethal. Neither should be tolerated by any family or educator.
    Thank you for raising awareness through your column Dan.

  7. Cathy Kim Walker

    This incident is so similar to one that a friend’s son also endured. The school addressed it promptly. I will share that the parents on both sides were equally disturbed. I realize that kids have to deal with their own pain and can often act in confusing and hurtful ways. As a Korean American born and raised in New England I saw my fair share of unpleasant racially-tinged comments and behaviors. I love this town and its people – I also know that no town is completely immune from hate and fear. Hearing these sad stories from parents is very sobering. I am grateful that most times these incidents are handled well by our leaders.

  8. Trish Jumper

    I am so sorry that this happened to your son, and to your family! We moved here recently, and my kids are grown. But, we have family members that attend Westport schools. I am very angry snd saddened by your story. From a parent who raised 3 children, I know how bad bullying can be. I agree with others that this should be brought up to the school administration. This other child should be held accountable for his actions. I know it can be daunting, knowing you have a battle to fight, but your son and your family should not have to deal with this. I’m also sure this bully has done this to other students. Good luck to you, however you decide to handle it.

  9. To quote Elie Wiesel ..Nobel Peace Prize recipient..Holocaust survivor
    “Silence only helps the perpetrators..never the victim “
    Thank you for having the courage to speak out.
    Your family is in our thoughts!

  10. We have to name that specific attacker. Doesn’t matter if he/she is a kid or an adult. Otherwise, he/she will keep attack and even encourage others to attack. Evils breed evils!

  11. Tabitha Nguyen

    This reminded me of a few instances that happened in elementary school before covid was even a thing, like my daughter’s skin was “too dark” to be included in a play group (kindergarten) to “No offense, but I really hate Asians (fifth grade). Kids can say dumb things, kids can just not know something is inappropriate, kids can be looking for attention when spouting provocative ideas and a million other reasons why words come out and are hurtful to others. I hoped the school would frame each instance as opportunity to have a constructive conversation about words that hurt and not finger wag and point. In one case it was managed as such with no shaming or other “consequences”, other times these opportunities were simply ignored. A while back I read the TEAM Westport Staples essays on microaggressions and I wept for each of those kids’ experiences. It crushed my heart to know this BS is so alive and flourishing in Westport, and everywhere else for that matter. I shared these stories with my kids and many other people because to me their perspective was so powerful and human. We are failing at home and in schools to bring awareness of the idea of ‘other’ or ‘different’ does not equal scary or bad. Other is other, and different is simply different. I don’t have the answer, but I really wish there was more willingness to speak openly in an inclusive manner without people being enraged at every turn for one reason or another. No matter how educated or worldly any of us, we all could learn something by listening with an open heart and mind. That’s it.

  12. Karen Kramer

    I am horrified that at this sad time in the worlds history,that people are still finding ways to hurt one another. It would be easier to say that it’s up to schools to teach the kids but I believe that we all have to ‘teach the children well’ and that all begins at home .
    See you all at Saturday s rally.

  13. Sarin Cheung

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry your son and you family had to endure it.

    The emotional pain inflicted by the rise of racism directed at AAPI community has been traumatic and unbearable. It’s been heartbreaking, but necessary, to communicate what’s been happening to our children and community.

    I, like many in Westport, am concerned about how we can form a community where all groups feel an equal sense of belonging. No one should have to tolerate racism from microaggressions to violent acts. I believe it must start with teaching our children to recognize racism and understand the history behind it. I would like our schools to take an active role in empowering our faculty to open dialogues with students at all levels, especially the elementary, on stopping racism and why diversity, equity and inclusion are important.

    Not teaching this moment, IN THIS MOMENT, sends the wrong message.

  14. Nancie Rinaldi

    I am terribly saddened by this and feel for the family and their son. I can remember back to when I was in school how cruel kids could be and it breaks my heart. If this happened on a school bus isn’t this particular incident something the school should be investigating? It may be harsh but I agree with the previous comment that the kid making these dreadful, bullying statements be at the minimum suspended.

  15. Cristina Negrin

    Curious where (who) did the picture of the graffiti on the car came from

  16. So sorry…this is heartbreaking. I did attend a rally up here in New Hampshire. It was good to see so many people come out. We need to support one another.

  17. LuAnn Giunta

    Thank you for sounding the alarm on this issue, Dan. I hope the leaders in our schools read this story and add this topic to their respective curriculums. If racial/cultural sensitivity is not being taught, it must be, especially now..

  18. Although it should be the superintendent of schools and First Selectman who apologize to the student and his family for the whole town, they have not…so we commenters do….with great sadness.

  19. No question about this that the bully should be outed.