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When all else fails

By Setareh Sabety
February 15, 2001
The Iranian

My daughter came home today from school and for the third time told me that a boy in her class was teasing her for being brown and Iranian. Since I had just the day before talked to her teacher about it I was shocked to find out that the teachers subsequent actions had bore no fruit.

Of course living in an all-white neighborhood in the notoriously redneck county of Frederick, Maryland, I was not too shocked that this kind of thing happened. What was shocking was that it happened to MY daughter and in the first grade!

I was very angry and told my daughter that next time this happened to hit the boy!

Remembering my own school-yard brawls with sudden and lurid precision, I proceeded to show her moves that would help her achieve that end.

It was not that physical violence was my initial reaction to this problem but the talking with the teacher had not worked. And going to the principal would result in another "talk" involving my daughter and the boy and more dragging out of an issue that I would rather avoid. Because at worst it will demoralize my daughter and at best become a self-destructive crutch like it has for so many other minorities.

As someone who had been -- not too long ago -- part of a majority, I had no training in being treated as a despised minority. The whole "race" issue was not part of my history. The years spent here in the U.S. were spent in the university scene in Boston where liberalism and eclecticism were the pretended if not the actual, status quo. I had no point of reference in my past on how to deal with a racial insult.

So when I was confronted with the problem my daughter faced, I answered the way I did, showing her how to hit a boy! However, my advise to her was not just a reaction. I wanted to teach her something. I wanted to teach this six-year-old that there are some things that one should not ever tolerate.

Now, I know that this is not politically correct. But I knew that even if she did try to hit the boy the chances of her or the boy getting hurt would be very small.

What I wanted her to know was that in some matters of honor it is so important to stand up for yourself, regardless of consequences, that even mommy allows the breaking of her most strongly held rules.

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