Dear Leaders: An Open Letter

My Email Sent to the Gemeentelijke Basisschool on Tuesday morning (Feb. 13th, 2018) In Dutch Below:

(English Translation Follows)

 

~

Dear Leaders:

My child does not attend your school but attends another school in Evergem Township. But I am writing to you as a parent. I am writing to you as a woman, an Asian woman, a Korean woman. I was made aware that the theme of your Carnaval celebrations last week was “China.” How wonderful. To celebrate another culture and bring awareness to young minds is a beautiful thing. Dressing up in traditional Chinese garb must have been fun and educational for the children.

But I was shocked and disappointed and then angry that the children’s faces were painted yellow. Their eyes were drawn with black liner to look small and slanty. Some parents even posted photos on social media with offensive and inappropriate captions. When I confronted one of the parents about it, they claimed it was just for fun and harmless and that it was the school that had painted the children’s faces “to look Chinese.” It is 2018. It’s not enough to say “I did not know” or “It was not meant to hurt anyone” when the people you have hurt have made it clear that it is hurtful.

I don’t have to tell you the controversy that already exists around Zwarte (Black) Piet and Sinterklaas. But I have to tell you and remind you that the controversy exists for a reason. Belgium is a phenomenal country to live in. There are so many things that make it superior to other first world countries. However, Belgium is homogenously a white country. Living in Belgium when your skin is not white is a struggle EVERY DAY. Whether or not you are fluent in the language, the color of your skin dictates the treatment and judgement you receive. A person of color cannot get a job or rent an apartment as easily as a person with white skin in this country. If you deny this then you are a part of the problem. If you can agree with this then you must understand that to a person of color, seeing a white person paint their face black or brown or yellow is offensive and hurtful. It is harmful, to all children to think this is okay, especialy if their parents think it’s funny and write ignorant ugly things on social media about it. People of color are not characters or caricatures, they are people, and they’re certainly not Halloween or Carnaval costumes. Just like people of color don’t dress up like copy machines pretending to be white people.

I have not attached photos or named names, because this isn’t about crucifying one or two people. This is about you, as a school, and all of us as grown-ups, to do all we can to educate and not ruin a generation of Belgians.

Do not get me wrong. I love living in Belgium. I am a citizen of Belgium. I am also an American. I am also a Korean. So my Dutch isn’t perfect. But I have the guts and the love for the future of Belgium to write this to you today. You have a responsibility to your students. Please do better.

I am expecting a response to this email and I will not stop until I have one. I am one voice but I am a loud one.

A concerned parent in Evergem,
Jun Song

UPDATE: RESPONSE TO MY OPEN LETTER

Content Protection by DMCA.com

28 Comments

  1. Heather

    I don’t understand how the adults painting the children’s faces and using eyeliner didn’t have a gut feeling that what they were doing was so wrong and extremely offensive. This makes me sick. I felt it in my gut just from reading Jun’s words.

    How do people do this and live with theirselves? It’s not fun. It’s not harmless.

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      I am sure there had to be at least one adult who knew it was wrong. But it takes guts to stand up to the majority. I just wish someone had. For the children. If we can’t protect the children then how can we call ourselves adults?

      Reply
  2. Tom

    If you don’t stand up your just part of the problem. One person can effect change in the day of social media and one stupid act can infect a lot of pain. I read about the blackface and now the yellowface it is 2018 ? Good luck

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      Thank you Tom. I don’t intend on giving up. I have to think about my own son, and the children who are going to be leaders in the future. What kind of leaders are we shaping??

      Reply
  3. Eng Xanoh

    I really love your letter, and agree with it 100% as I did when I saw what you posted about the this on the IG after I saw the picture… I am from America but also Asian, just am confused to your example about the “copy machine”? What is this in reference to? Is it to make fun of white people for copying other cultures? I’m confused

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      Yes, it was a dig directed at those who can’t seem to appreciate another culture without painting their faces and taking humans and reducing them to caricatures.

      Reply
  4. GKL1961

    It seems the racist fights never ends. I am appalled they would paint kids yellow. What are they going to do when or if the study Africa, paint the kids black?

    Reply
  5. Vicky

    I had absolutely no idea this happened in our town. Thanks for speaking up! Dressing up in traditional Chinese garments is one thing and educational but painting the childrens faces etc feels wrong imho. There are enough stereotypes in the world..

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      Exactly. And Asian people don’t have yellow skin anyway. Why are these adults, who are supposed to be educators, poisoning the minds of innocent children?

      Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      It’s not just America and it’s not just Belgium. There are good and open and generous American like there are good and open and generous Belgians. But sometimes there are some bad apples in the bunch.

      Reply
  6. Charlene

    When in Rome do what the Romans do. If you don’t like it then move on. It’s no secret there is a considerable amount of racism in Europe, especially against Asians.

    Reply
    1. miranxchun

      There’s also a considerable amount of sexual assault happening in the media in America. Shall the assaulted all sit down and move on too? Maybe move out of the country because the country is “too rapey?” Should #BlackLivesMatter also take a seat in the back of the bus or perhaps they should move on and accept that they are being targeted? If your mind is already closed off to the idea that one person can make a difference and your solution to a problem is to accept it and move on, then you’re a part of the problem.

      Reply
      1. Brenda

        miranxchun….why bring up the controversial topic of #BlackLivesMatter when ALL lives matter?

        You cherry pick issues such as stating maybe move out of a a country if is too rapey? There is no comparison. Unfortunately, it’s your distorted perception of reality and pitbull mentality that is in fact the cause of much of the world’s systematic problems.

        Awareness is one thing, but it’s one’s methodology and approach that really matters. As we we have seen, Jun’s intentions were good but it’s delivery and wording set off the school to respond the way they did.

        Reply
        1. miranxchun

          First off, you should realize that the #BlackLivesMatter movement isn’t to say that no one but black lives matter, it is to take a stance against the oppression that the community is facing. When people counteract a cause that says “Hey, we Blacks are also people. Oppression must stop.” by saying “Well, white people, black people, yellow, people, etc are all people.” you are missing the point. You are arguing a hashtag and arguing semantics, but not arguing root causes and issues.

          Secondly, cherry picking is far from what I’m doing. When someone is trying to make their voice heard about a particular issue that deals with race, oppression, and being stuffed into a corner, you don’t cherry pick. You cant. Because there is more than just yellow faces being painted. This is a bigger issues than just race. You are standing up for what is right and for the oppressed to stand up and be heard. Isn’t that what this is all about? So shouldn’t the #MeToo movement and the #BlackLivesMatter movement be mentioned? After all, isn’t the point of this to speak out against racism and oppression (which includes the huge movement against sexual assault)?

        2. Jun Song Author

          “Brenda” or “Charlene” – which is it? Because I see you’ve commented as both but from the same IP address. Congratulations on trolling my site.

    2. Matt Vohwinkle

      Congrats you’ve won the award for Most Ignorant Response! You might as well have said “go back to where you came from.” It is equally as ignorant.

      Reply
        1. Jun Song Author

          Brenda, you are the one leaving comments under different aliases. I think Matt has an understanding of what the world really is as much as you do sitting there in Taoyuan City in Taiwan.

    3. Rosalind Love

      It never cease to amaze me how people think it’s okay to offend others who do not look the same as they. Racism and bigotry is a disease of civilization, and the nature of a disease is to develop an infection; hence, discrimination is the the infection which is an inflammation in the society of the world. As with any inflammation there is pain. That pain hurts terribly. As a people who must share this planet, let’s stop infecting our children with this god awful inflammation.

      Reply
    4. Jun Song Author

      I’m not really sure what you mean by “move on” but I am not one to merely stand by and watch on the sidelines if I can do something about it. How else would we effect change?

      Reply
  7. DeanoBrown

    The fact you told these people how you felt about their behaviour and they still dismissed it as ‘just a bit of fun’ is horrendous!! What hope do their children have if their parents can’t even see the things they are doing are wrong??!!

    I so admire you for having the guts to do something like this. A lot of people would just accept this as something they have to live with, which they shouldn’t have to at all!! I hope this is taken on board by the “Leaders” And they truly start to think about how they deal with these things.

    You only have to look at the intelligence/understanding/accepting nature of your own son to see how much good you’re doing in this World!! <3

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      I haven’t even gone into detail about what some of the parents of these children wrote under the photos as captions on social media. Offensive and degrading text poking fun at Chinese people. And we expect these parents to raise their children to be intelligent and socially responsible adults.

      Reply
  8. Brenda

    I am proud of you for speaking up. I could never understand how you feel, but I certainly feel the pain in your words. You and Noah deserve to live in a world where color doesn’t matter. I love you and Noah! 😍😍

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      Just imagine the little Asian kids asking their parents why their friends’ faces were painted yellow and their eyes drawn funny with black liner. Kids won’t understand why. It’s the adults who ruin everything.

      Reply

Feel Free to Dish!