Notes From a Non-Parent

Notes from a Non-Parent™

Teaching Respect By Example: Avoid Bigoted Outbursts While Driving with Children or you might end up with an Alexandra Wallace

Original Story: Slate

With its repulsive insensitivity for Japan’s tragedy and its ignorant, racist views, Sheen goddess lookalike and privileged UCLA princess Alexandra Wallace’s YouTube mimicry of Asian students has resulted in condemnation, editorial skewering and death threats. Considering the young poly-sci student is now saying she doesn’t even know why she did it, parents take note…A Daily Bruin opinion piece sums up Wallace’s immediate future:

When this ordeal is over, Wallace is almost certainly more likely to remember the death threats and personal attacks than feel any real empathy for – or have any real understanding of – people with different social identities. The violent and abusive reactions will simply make her scared, defensive, and even more unwilling to engage in dialogue with the people she offended.

This isn’t just Alexandra’s future, it’s ours too if we can’t teach our children acceptance rather than mere tolerance. Tolerance is a droopy word, too routinely thrown around. Tolerance has become the consolation prize of a politically correct “multiculturalism.” Acceptance, on the other hand, forces us to leave our comfort zones, and that builds character.  It’s what we should strive for. But since lecturing isn’t my strong suit – I prefer skinning a carcass ‘til its guts pour out on your shoes – let me give a personal example of where an otherwise good parent can go a little off the rails here.

When I was growing up, my friends and I parroted opinions and remarks we picked up from our folks in the car. That particular crucible was where Asians turned into “boat people” (mainly Vietnamese refugees back then) and homeless people were “bums” or “bag ladies.” There were others, but you get the point. And I doubt much has changed; certainly driving isn’t less hectic these days. Most people behind the wheel lose it occasionally, even usually mellow people: situations over which we have little control don’t typically bring out the best in us. My own dad was no powerlifting steroid abuser, but I sure am thankful You Tube and cell phone cameras didn’t exist during family vacations. Or trips to the store. Or to and from school, grandma’s house, baseball practice, or church. (At least you wouldn’t have heard racist crap from my Mexican-American household, though I do recall something about, “the last thing that woman drove was a goddamned ox.”)

I’m not sayin’ we should all drink chamomile tea and listen to soothing whale sounds when we drive; I’m not even advocating limiting comments when kids are in the car. I am suggesting parents think before spouting off, perhaps freely carping about the idiocy of running a stop sign instead of focusing on the ethnicity of the offending driver. And if they do let their own, er, true feelings out in the heat of the moment, later opportunities should be sought to talk about that with Susie Big Ears in the back. Not doing so sends a message – and it ain’t one of acceptance.

Given that what many parents either impose on or allow their kids to have eventually becomes an undesirable adult trait, such as entitlement or being overly managed to the point of a you-name-it anxiety disorder, not using these moments to teach children to effectively manage their stress is a bad idea, as Alexandra Wallace demonstrates. (Now please humor me while I repeat this with a special patois for my fellow aging punk rock friends who are parents: This shit evolves! Don’t let ‘em sidestep punishments because you’re afraid to be seen as the bad guy! Don’t be a chickenshit and slack off when it comes to consequences! Follow through on penalties and praise or you’ll just generate another asshole like the one you work with who doesn’t think rules apply to him or her.)

Maybe Alexandra grew up hearing “University of Caucasians Lost among Asians,” which I first heard back in high school (during the later ‘90s the amusingly opposing, “Ugly Caucasians, Lovely Asians” became popular, though I still love “Under Construction Like Always”). She was certainly blindsided by the negative publicity her “manners” lesson garnered, which suggests that the belief racial slurs are okay as long as they’re “all in good fun” was also learned at home. Or in the car. Railing against gabby Asians in the library isn’t all that different from angrily reacting to being cut off in traffic; the cause-response mechanism is the same. And just look where it can lead:

P.S. And kids? DUH! Aren’t you supposed to be the tech-savvy generation? Don’t you know there’s always a camera waiting to put your dumbest acts on the Internet? Guess what, Madison and Dexter…tattooing your foreheads with “Tsunami’s Rock” will get you farther in life. ‘Cause sometimes, fame just shows you’re a lame.