Response To My Open Letter

Continued from my emailed OPEN LETTER to a school in my town of Evergem…

I received a reply, but not directly from the school in question, and not even via email but but via screenshots from the Twitter account of my town’s local government….

The whole thing is so bizarre and just plain wrong:

(English Translation Follows/My Response)

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Dear Ms. Song:

The communication department of the municipality of Evergem pointed out the fact that you have posted a blog post about our school’s “Carnaval” party last Friday. We read that you were rather upset and that you think it is important that we live in a harmonious society where skin color is not a factor to discrimination. (My Response: Actually I emailed you all first so perhaps you should check your inbox. I am not naive. I am not asking for a miracle. Just don’t paint white kids faces yellow and think it’s okay to call them Chinese. Asian people don’t even HAVE yellow skin. What is wrong with you?!)

The children look forward to carnival because they can have fun, dress up and dance. (My Response: As they should, they’re children. It’s the adults that alway mess things up. 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. What are we supposed to tell them as parents? That their school thinks they have yellow skin and funny looking eyes? It’s the adults who ruin everything.)

The school invites the parents and grandparents to the carnival party to let them enjoy the fun and joy of the children. With this initiative we create a spontaneous, accessible and open with all our parents. We do this to achieve “connectedness”. We are sorry that this could be interpreted differently. Stigmatization is not a value for which we want to be known as a school community. (My Response: Congratulations on accommodating so many people to come watch little white children in yellowface and black eyeliner drawn across their eyes to look “slanty and Chinese.” This is NOT OPEN to interpretation. It is racist. There’s a difference. If you are not trying to “stigmatize” anyone then children wearing costumes should have been enough. But you took it so far as to PAINT CHILDREN’S FACES YELLOW AND GIVE THEM SLANTY EYES. If that’s not the very essence of stigmatization then what is?! )

The importance that teachers have placed above all was to dance to a song and make it as visual as possible in action and movement, clothing and other attributes. Children and teachers were also made up for other numbers. During the song about Belgium there were a lot of fries on their faces. The dancers and dancers who played soldiers got the stereotyped khaki stripes on their cheek. (My Response: Song and dance can be performed without offensive makeup. Comparing fries and camouflage to yellowface and slanty drawn eyes is ridiculous. Apples and oranges. You should be ashamed of yourselves.)

Since you are not a parent of our school, you do not know that our school is a very open school and that everyone is open to dialogue, consultation or discussion. We would have appreciated it in this case to first discuss this with us. We therefore find it very unfortunate that you immediately post this message on a blog and encourage people to react. (My Response: I don’t have to be a parent of any school to know what is offensive. Stop making excuses. And stop trying to silence me. Step out of your warm racists closets and apologize and promise this won’t happen again.)

Our school community and school board recognize and respect the diversity of their pupils and students in the field of philosophical, philosophical and religious belief, social, ethnic and linguistic background, nationality, skin color, gender and sexual orientation. At the same time, they clearly state the expectation that pupils, parents and course members also respect the differences that are present, that they are prepared to listen to one another and understand other opinions. (My Response: This all sounds very nice but actions speak louder than words.)

Our school community also employs staff members with a different philosophical belief or foreign origin. Children of Asian origin also come to our schools. I will question their parents in this and listen to them. (My Response: Right. Put more pressure on the victims. Perhaps you should have DISCUSSED it with them, or at least with a more DIVERSE GROUP BEFORE you went and pulled this stunt.)

The children thought it was nice to be painted. Others do not and they should not have done this either. It was not the intention of the teachers and the management to stigmatize in the slightest sense. My team is startled by your initiative and feels inhibited in its spontaneity and creativity. (My Response: I’m sorry that you’re startled. Imagine waking up tomorrow and not being white anymore. I bet that will startle you more.)

Together with the children they made it a “crazy week” of:
– Friday in advance: action: “Move against Bullying”
– on Monday the children came to school with a crazy haircut, also the teachers participated. Many parents assisted their children half an hour earlier in the morning to help them in this
– on Tuesday, our playground turned green, in the theme of the Dikke Truiendag
– on Wednesday children and teachers put on the craziest socks or stockings,
– on Thursday the song was repeated around the “Move against Bullying”
– to end on Friday with the apotheosis, where we were last moved to the sports hall because of the bad weather

(My Response: What does this have to do with anything?)

Because we believe that connection with the living environment is so important and you strive for recognition and appreciation, we would like to invite you for an interview at our school. We provide an open conversation, face to face. We fear that fragmentary discussions via social media disrupt the discussion. Or even polarizes. Do you let us know if you are open to this call? (My Response: You shift the blame on me yet you want me to come see you in private? Educate yourself and your staff. Promise you won’t do this kind of thing again. You seem more concerned about keeping this quiet and getting me alone in a room. So I challenge YOU to speak about this in a PUBLIC forum. Racism thrives and grows in darkness. Let’s SHINE A LIGHT on it.)

Geert Ryckaert & Mieke Genbrugge,
Principals
Gementeelijke primary school Evergem

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Here is a letter I have drafted for them, that would be more appropriate and most appreciated.

I will be happy to meet with them once they have issued such an apology:

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23 Comments

  1. Sounds to me that since your kid doesn’t go there your voice should be silenced. I’m in the middle of a shitstorm with our HOA, and it may end with us getting kicked out. But dammit! Our voices need to be heard! Good on you, Jun!

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      I’m so sick of having to tip toe around the bad guys to keep the peace. What this school did was wrong and I WILL get them to swear never to pull yellowface again.

      Reply
  2. DeanoBrown

    Wow, I must be really naive because I foolishly assumed that you bringing their ignorance to their attention would actually make them see that they’ve done something wrong… But this entire response is just constant repetition of “We haven’t done anything wrong. We’re not racist. And how dare you call us out for this”!!

    I really hope you don’t let this go… People like this need educating, and hopefully they will eventually find themselves grateful to have had someone as intelligent and patient as you to teach them why this is so wrong!!

    Reply
  3. jmantyger

    As I age, I am amazed at our ability to embrace stupid. Keep speaking up and out. Get them to the point they think. Sucks you have to do it with grown ass people.

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      Unfortunately, they are responsible for shaping an entire generation. It’s not something that should be taken lightly. I refuse to just sit and watch these people do all this damage.

      Reply
  4. Ann McFarlin Schroeder (Facebook)

    Jun, I am shocked that the school responded the way they did, It is absolutely absurd that they are educators and they don’t see that painting faces yellow and adding eye liner to make the eyes slanted is racist, just like painting faces Black is racist. The children could have dressed in the clothing of the Chinese, the make up isn’t necessary. This situation makes me angry, how dare they turn this around on you and say you are out of line! They want you to be silent, but anyone who follows you knows you won’t. I think you should meet with them, but talk to them at their next board meeting. Educate them and the parents of that school, don’t let this go, keep the dialogue going.

    Reply
  5. kcsmum

    Well. Through you I’ve come to know many cows. Many of them are pickled. I try to be aware and contribute their actions and inactions to the fact that they are well, cows. This response coming from an assumed educated representative of the Belgian school system is staggering. I felt like I was reading a response from a sixth grade mean girl. I don’t need to continue my rant as the evidence is blatant. But as you ponder the community you are a part of in spite of it’s racial injustice and ideas that set the world back 60 years, I implore you to consider this: some parents got up half an hour early to assist their kids with a crazy hairstyle!!

    Reply
    1. Jun Song Author

      Haaaaa, that whole section, including the crazy hairstyle early wake up really flabbergasted me. I literally can’t believe this is happening. But I can. Sadly, there’s a lot for everyone to learn. I’m willing to teach.

      Reply
  6. Jane

    Well basically they are still clueless. Perhaps meeting with them so they have to look you in your eyes and explain how they could possibly think painting children’s faces yellow is not racist!

    Reply
  7. Janet

    Jun, I would encourage you to meet with them. Maybe just coming face to face with you and (hopefully) listening, if it changes their minds, even just a little, isn’t it worth it? I know you might not can change the world (notice I said “might”) I think you could make a difference there!!! Keep up the good fight!

    Reply

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