Brian Jon Bergen Technical HS Paramus,NJ 9th Grade
“How has your exposure to Korean culture and history impact you? How has it prepared you to make important contributions to Korea and to the global community?
For Korean-American students, what does it mean to be a Korean-American living in the U.S. today - socially, culturally and/or psychologically? What important or unique contribution can you make to Korea, the Korean-American community, and the United States?”
My name is Brian Jon and I am a student at Bergen County Technical High School. The Bergen County Technical High School is a community that values diversity and the wellbeing of all students regardless of their race and ethnicity. However, an incident that took place at Bergen County Academies does not reflect the community that the school champions for.
On September 7th of 2017, a teacher on the first day of school exercised her authority in fashion that ostracized and demeaned an entire group of students.
I am one of the victims.
I wasn’t physically in the class.
However, I am Korean.
The teacher did not just say she hated Justin or Nancy.
She specifically said that she hated Koreans.
I am not a student at BCA.
However, as long as the teacher remains at the school, I know for a fact that no Korean students are going to speak out.
Martin Luther King Jr. said “Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.”
Students could only speak out when they are actually protected.
The opening statement above is what I said when I delivered my speech at the Board of Education meeting this past December.
Couple months before this case was closed, I sent a letter to the principal of BCA for my concerns to re-investigate this issue.
And as I expected, the letter that I sent was ignored.
This then inspired me to create a petition, which then throughout the next six days, I was able to get more than 1500 signatures. Knowing that a lot of talk goes around during the Board of Education meeting, I attended the meeting urging the members of the board to re-investigate the case and submitted my petition as a proof that other members of the BCTS community wanted this case to be re-investigated but importantly, they, including myself wanted answers. Through the investigation, the board made sure that the teacher could or would not teach again in this district.
While collecting my petitions, I was able to realize why these types of problems are never really properly solved for us Koreans.
A lot of the Korean parents really tried to understand the teacher so that this problem wouldn’t escalate. Throughout the process of my petitions, I have gotten many questions saying, “Why are you fighting for someone else’s problem when it’s not your school’s issue?” So I answered their questions by asking them questions, “Why is this only the school’s problem, even if this is a hate crime?” “Why can’t people realize that closing this case with minimal punishment can cause more problems to live as Korean Americans in this country?”
Korean Americans like myself are often taught by their parents to stay quiet and respect their elders such as making eye contact, etc during our childhood. Even if we are told to do something that we don’t want to, we reluctantly do it since the alternative would be far worse.
The Korean Culture is one of the most beautiful cultures as it is a culture that values respect, honor, and family. However, the way we stay quiet and mannerly are couple of the factors that could “harm” us as a community. If we remain quiet, then others will perceive us to be weak and it will allow them to take advantage of us since we won’t fight back. This incident for sure won’t be the last discrimination against Koreans. I believe that we should voice our opinions against injustices involving our community without compromising the values of our culture.
More recently, the president of the Korean-American Association reached out to me to start and find the Youth Korean-American Association. When I asked why she chose me out of more qualified students she responded by saying, “I don’t need a lot of people or even smart people. I just need one leader that could lead the community.” This led to the creation of the Korean Youth Association and on February 6, 2018, we had our first organizational meeting.
I am still a student but I hope to be a Korean-American who will make difference in my community by gathering strengths in quantity to create a powerful root. These strengths will create a spark to set a fire of hope in people’s hearts, I believe through the gathering of our firm community, we will lead the Korean-Americans in a path of justice and peace.
[경운 장학회 영어웅변대회 First Place Winner]
<Brian Jon Bergen Technical HS Paramus,NJ 9th Grade