Jane Park said that before last week, she hadn’t addressed mass shootings with her kids, Bennett, 7, and Ruby, 5.
“It really does scare me,” the Seattle mom told TODAY Parents. “And Bennett, my 7-year-old, is in first grade now. I worked as a local new reporter and I remember the Sandy Hook shootings, so he's at the age of those children.”
The Korean American mother of two knew she needed to start the conversation after the Atlanta shootings that left eight people dead, including six Asian women.
“He saw me reacting to the news, so given the climate and the rise in anti-Asian racism, I did address it and tell him,” she said. “I said, 'You know, the victims were Asian American and they could have been an aunt, a grandmother' — you know, contextualizing it in that manner.”
Park, who boasts more than 3 million followers on TikTok, decided to use her platform for this teaching moment.
In a video that has gone viral, Park uses notecards and asks her kids if they are ready for another “sight word test,” an activity she does frequently on her channel.
“There’s a message in this one, so I want you to think about it, OK,” she says in the video, before holding up cards for her kids that read: “Stop Asian hate. Hate is a virus.”
After reading the sentence out loud together, Park explains to her children that like a virus, hate can infect people. She follows by asking them how they felt about the recent acts of targeted violence.
“Sad, because they killed people. They killed Asian people,” Bennett can be heard replying.
The TikTok video ends with Park telling her kids the importance of being vocal about racism and hate crimes.
“We can speak out against it. We can talk about it. We can build awareness, right? Because not everyone might know what’s going on.”
The longer version of the video, posted to Park’s Instagram page, includes Bennett defining racism.
“In the three short months of 2021, I’ve had more difficult conversations with my kids than I ever had with my own parents,” Park wrote alongside the 90-second clip. “It breaks my heart to have them, and I don’t know what the right way is, except to falter and and be awkward, and try to process together. My fellow Asian American parents, I’m grieving and standing with you today. Let us better equip our kids for the world they will inherit and shape.”
Park said she never intended for the video to go viral.
“I’m by no means an expert and I didn’t intend to post that video to be a teaching tool,” she shared. “I did it to raise awareness in my own way. I think a by-product of that was a lot of parents giving me feedback that it helped them, which I didn't expect.”
Park told TODAY that she was initially afraid of breaking her son’s innocence, but it is important to her, as a parent, to talk about these topics without making her children scared.
“My greatest fear is that it goes unaddressed and I assume that my kids will know how to handle it, not internalize it,” she explained. “I think that they need to be equipped with the language, how to recognize when something is not right or (is) a form of racism, and to of course, stand up if they see it elsewhere or others being targeted.”