Are your terms of endearment actually racist?

Image Credit: LFSMusings

They called me “Gorilla”. They asked me if Donkey Kong was my father. They asked me if my forehead was so big because my brain got large from doing a lot of math. They asked me if I ate dog at home.

The torments on the school bus were relentless. Finally, I refused to ride the bus, and my mom drove me to school until I was old enough to drive myself. Obviously, the racism hurt. I have no clue if those kids were also calling the black students, “Gorilla” (Monkey and Gorilla have long been used as racial slurs against black people). I am sure they did.

Looking back, I wish I found support with the other students of color. Instead, I took the stuff upper lip approach. Those memories still haunt me, which is why I’m astounded that parents will use pet names like “monkey” for their kids of color and refuse to stop even after learning the term’s racist history.

I am left speechless when in the Chinese adoption community, I see parents refuse to stop using “China Doll” and “Spicy Girl”. Adult adoptees have spent energy explaining that the terms are objectifying… and outside of the Chinese adoption community, those terms have racist and sexual connotations.

It’s wonderful that your intent isn’t to objectify and/or sexualize your child. I never said that was your intent. But can you see how gross I feel when terms used to objectify and sexualize Asian women are suddenly used by parents as terms of endearment? If adult adoptees are speaking up about this, why would you be so stubborn that you don’t even consider an adoptee’s point of view?

The argument is always that you love your child and will always support them. Then really support them and make sure you’re educated on those terms of endearment you want to use. I would seriously hope no parent would want to perpetuate harmful stereotypes about their children.

Cultural context matters. If you’re going to be raising your child in a culture different from their birth culture, it’s up to you, the protective parent, to ensure everything you’re doing is to support your child. I’m well aware that parents were told by those in China that their children were “spicy”. Unfortunately in America, that means something completely different. Be responsible.

Maybe let your children make informed decisions about what they can be called. And I mean fully informed decisions. Yes, tell them your intent is loving, but you also need to inform them about how the rest of society uses those terms. And if the meaning of the term is too age-inappropriate for your child to be told, then that should be Clue Number One that you need to stop.

Don’t let anything remain unknown, and do not put your child in a vulnerable position because you refuse to change your behavior.

My Adoption Story Pt. 52 | China Dolls and Spicy Girls