An Asian mother and activist who was offended by schoolchildren’s innocent gesture in a yearbook photo has her school district desperately apologizing, writing letters to parents and teaching the children that anything they do as white Americans can be condemned as offensive.
Students at Dyer Elementary School in Dacula, Ga. were told to make a funny face for the photo in the 2019-2020 yearbook, and some children pulled their eyes into slits in what the angry mother took as a racist gesture.
“As Asian Americans we are viewed as a perpetual foreigner, and our eyes are what people distinguish as identifying us as Asian or foreign,” said school district parent Stephanie Cho, who is also executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta.
She said the photo was “dehumanizing” for Asians and that “[The gesture] is incredibly offensive. It reduces a person to a gesture instead of a full human being.”
All this of children who had no ill intent.
The yearbook was sent out to students’ families last week.
School Principal Michael DiFilippo sent an apology letter to students and families on Aug. 13, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“We see this as a teachable moment for our students, helping them to understand that their actions can hurt others even if they did not intend to offend,” DiFilippo wrote in the letter. “We apologize for the actions of these students and that this photo appeared in the yearbook. As a diverse school community, our goal is to cultivate respect for all cultures and to provide a welcoming environment for all.”
What the children will actually learn from watching an adult grossly overreact, and then other adults ridiculously overreact in response, remains to be seen.