My Email Sent to the Gemeentelijke Basisschool on Tuesday morning (Feb. 13th, 2018) In Dutch Below:
(English Translation Follows)
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,
UPDATE: RESPONSE TO MY OPEN LETTER