I grew up in a fairly homogeneous community of Caucasian people, where you could literally count on three fingers the number of Asian and First Nations kids in each classroom. Until high school, our student body didn't even have black or Latino students. It isn't hard to imagine the kind of breeding ground this northern town was for unsolicited racist jokes and commentary, including the highly-offensive "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees..." ditty and other ignorant slurs.
Given the small population of visible minorities, people of the same ethnic group tended to stick together. Our Chinese community was not surprisingly quite insular, despite the fact that most of us kids attended different schools across the city. We all met at Saturday Chinese language school, or whenever a person from the community was holding a wedding banquet or major birthday feast. We also congregated for Chinese new year celebrations and other such festive occasions. Sometimes, it was simply a massive mah-jong fete that brought the many families together.
You'd think that, with such blatant racism to deal with from the "outside world," our little Chinese population would have each other's back, right? Wrong. While we all met fairly regularly, thanks to the unspoken Chinese "saving face" rules of etiquette that required representation from each family at the host's event, there was no love lost between the various factions of our little Asian community. Gossip was rampant, as were back-handed compliments and passive-aggressive slights for perceived insults. While my dad was a fairly popular guy in the community, even he was not immune to this sort of back-stabbing and rumour-mongering. Heck, he was an active, willing participant too!
As kids, this was what we witnessed growing up, and what we heard about at the kitchen table when the adults didn't shoo us away for eavesdropping on their gossipy conversations. If you caught anyone in a particularly feisty mood, they would even entertain our questions and elaborate on the gossip with their personal commentaries. The result of being an impressionable audience member is that we as kids began to form preconceived notions about these other Chinese kids in our community. If our parents didn't like their parents, or felt we had been insulted somehow by their words or deeds, then we as kids were fiercely loyal and hated the children of said offending family. If our parents perceived certain members of the community as being snobby or braggarts, we would in turn perceive their children in the same way. If our parents felt like these other families were "copying" us or trying to one-up our achievements, then we would also work hard to excel beyond the accomplishments of that other family's children so that we could maintain our bragging rights. That's just how impressionable little kids operate, and it was our "normal."
But here's the thing (and I'm a little embarrassed that it took me so many decades to realize this): those kids aren't their parents, and we are not ours either. The strange perceptions we formed of these other Chinese kids in our hometown community are no more true than whatever weird ideas they may hold about us. And that bizarre, inexplicable sense of competition and resentment that I have for some of these folks? Irrational. Unfounded. Ridiculous. I blame the gossip of yesteryear and the generations before us using us as their fodder for braggadocio (disclaimer: I'm not saying my parents did this, and I never saw them do so, but I've seen other parents in the community doing this exact thing, right down to piano lesson bragging rights or who bought the biggest condominium/home in the city).
I recently came across the FB profile for the one of the kids of one of these Chinese families. She actually lives in my neck of the woods, and had we not moved last year, I probably would have run into her at the local Urban Fare. It appears that her child is around Little L's age. She is an accomplished professional in her field. I know little more about her given the privacy features of FB, but I suspect that in a different world we would have been friends. And my silly "grudges" and preconceived biases against her? As reliable as something that comes out of Donald Trump's mouth.
So here's my take-away: times change. People change. And little kids are unbelievably impressionable. Therefore, if ever Hubbs or I should have any biases against anyone we know, we would be best served holding our tongues and egos in check. It's a good reminder.