Two Continents in One Building

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Today, the Sociology students of Belleville High School embarked on the most anticipated field trip of the year—the trip to Old Tappan. We were just so excited to be immersed in a different environment and to form our own judgments of the conditions at Old Tappan that differ from ours.

I didn’t get to take many pictures because I was too busy taking videos.  I wanted to compile them in a sort of documentary about my experience.   With this picture, I tried to highlight how the school accommodates the students with up-to-date technology, something my school sort of fails at doing.

The most “controversial” or “intriguing” aspect of the high school was the cafeteria.  Cafeterias, rather.   You see, there are two lunchrooms at this high school.  Most white students have lunch at the north cafeteria, appropriately dubbed “North America,” while the South Koreans (and other Asians) frequent the south cafeteria, dubbed “South Korea.”  Many see it as segregation, something negative, but I was assured by some of the students that there is no animosity between the people from each cafeteria, which is nice to know.

A couple of my teachers did comment on this notorious fact, questioning why this separation exists in this high school.  I didn’t think it was that bad that students chose to group themselves like so.  However, once my teachers mentioned the word “segregation” rather than mere “separation,” my mind immediately traveled back to the time before the Civil Rights Movement.  Such a comparison certainly evoked negative thoughts in my mind.  Then, I told myself, “Surely, this segregation at this high school isn’t like segregation between the whites and the blacks.”

When I then heard the statement that there are no hard feelings between the white kids and the Asians, I was assured that the situation at Old Tappan isn’t anything bad.  The separation isn’t enforced, and I justified this division with preferences.  These students just prefer to mingle with students who are like them, as anyone would.  The South Koreans, for example, like to be among students who speak their language, as one of the students said to us.  Indeed, as I passed by a couple of tables in “South Korea,” I heard many speaking Korean to each other.  Also, since I did mention that people tend to gravitate towards others who are like them, I’m going to assume that the South Koreans eat together because of their culture.  Although we should not allow stereotypes to dominate our judgment of a person, we can’t deny that, for the most part, people do tend to follow the stereotypes associated with them.  That serves as a link that pulls Asians towards each other.  Of course, all these apply to the North Americans as well.

One can’t say that these students should get out of their comfort zones to meet new people.  I mean, come on.  Lunch is a relaxing time of the day.  You sit down.  You eat.  You tell your friends anything interesting that happened.  With whom would you want to share this time?  Of course, with people that make you feel at ease, people who are like you.

Besides, outside the cafeteria, everyone mingles with each other.  I saw no racial discrimination of any sort.

Thus, I conclude that the South Koreans and the whites divide themselves accordingly during lunch in order to be with people who are like them, not to avoid the other group, which would constitute a sort of discrimination.

In other news, I got to sit in a Japanese class!  We watched the original version of Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back!

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