At the request of Chinese American parents at the Blackwell Elementary School in LWSD, we submitted the request for a formal investigation today. Below is the letter sent to Director Ortega:
Dear Director Ortega,
As I mentioned in my letter to Mrs. Nicholson last night, we are requesting a formal investigation into the Blackwell Elementary Chinese New Year incident.
Upset Chinese parents contacted us, and sought our help in resolving the Chinese New Year incident at Blackwell Elementary School. According to the parents, Mrs. Carol Nicholson, a much loved first grade teacher, was forced to issue an apology letter for wearing a Chinese gown during Chinese New Year. According to the letter, In the letter, Mrs. Nicholson was made to say that she offended Chinese American culture by wearing the Chinese gown, which was gifted to her by a former student’s family. The irony is that the Chinese American community at the Blackwell actually welcomed Mrs. Nicholson’s gesture of cultural recognition and cultural appreciation. The Chinese American parents at the school only found out about this incident AFTER the apology letter was issued. And they have been trying to advocate on Mrs. Nicholson’s behalf, but they have hit the stonewall from the school and district. Their questions remain unanswered. The school and district’s only answer is to label Mrs. Nicholson’s cultural recognition gesture as “culture appropriation”.
Request for investigation:
We’d like the school and school district to thoroughly investigate this incident and provide answers to the following questions:
1) Who and what triggered the action to label Mrs. Nicholson’s action of honoring and recognizing Chinese American culture during Chinese New Year as “culture appropriation”?
2) Who and what parties were involved in the decision process?
3) Who did the school and school district consult with?
4) Did the school and the school district communicated/ consulted with the Chinese American community? If so, what was the reaction?
5) Who wrote the apology letter? Was Mrs. Nicholson threatened with losing her job if she did not issue the letter?
6) On what ground is this labeled as “culture appropriation”? What is the school district’s definition and policy? Please show us the actual document.
7) What did the school and the school district do to recognize Chinese American culture during the Chinese New Year?
As the receivers of Mrs. Nicholson’s gesture of cultural recognition, Chinese American parents apparently do not feel her action was offensive. It is the school and school district’s decision that offended the Chinese American community. The school and school district’s decision sent a chilling message to everyone who celebrates and recognizes Chinese American culture – they may be punished for showing their recognition in the open. Being inclusive starts with understanding each and every culture. Chinese American culture welcomes people to wear their traditional dresses during Chinese New Year, regardless of race or background. The school and school district should learn to accept it.
Copying ACE Foundation as they expressed interest in joining this investigation request.
WA Asians For Equality
Culture Appreciation vs. Culture Appropriation
According to the comparison on the University of British Columbia’s website , Mrs. Nicholson’s decision to wear a Chinese gown gifted to her by a former student’s family during Chinese New Year, falls under the Cultural Appreciation category, NOT Cultural Appropriation.
Cultural Appreciation is appreciating another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally, while cultural appropriation is taking one aspect of a culture that is not their own, such as culturally distinct items, aesthetics, or spiritual practices, and mimics it — without consent, permission, or any cultural context or relationship to that item or practice — solely for personal interest, make money, gain popularity, or because they like the way it looks.
The primary difference is that of consent or permission to share in a cultural exchange. For example, appreciating and sharing the culture being celebrated by wearing culturally appropriate clothing at a celebrated event — as opposed to appropriation, such as going to a music festival wearing a costume the imitates a culture that is solely intended to get attention or likes on social media.
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