The Office of Undergraduate Admissions tells students “The pursuit of diversity and excellence lies at the heart of Yale.” The University lauds itself for creating a home away from home for every student thanks to the “welcoming atmosphere of the entire Yale community.” If, as visiting prefrosh, we were reading the latest issue of the Rumpus, we would hesitate to make Yale our home away from home.
There is a fine line between humor and blatantly uninformed generalizations about minority communities. The so-called humor in the Rumpus article “Me Love You Long Time: Yale’s Case of Yellow Fever” employs generalizations that are not only uninformed but derogatory towards Asian American men, Asian American women, those in interracial relationships and women in general. Moreover, the Rumpus article is predicated on the assumption that Yalies are so tolerant and sophisticated that the “ironic” use of stereotypes will not be perceived as a hurtful gesture.
This isn’t the case. These stereotypes are extremely hurtful. Time and time again in mainstream media, Asians are objectified on the basis of race and gender without regard for their accomplishments or humanity. This phenomenon has come home to Yale multiple times this year: in the Yale Herald’s use of racially insensitive language in its calendar writeup of the Asian American Film Festival, in the Yale Record’s inclusion of an aggressive Asian girl as one of Yale’s prominent campus personalities and in the Rumpus’s depiction of Asian males as having “no game.” It is unsettling to see this caliber of generalization made about fellow students within the Yale community.
Such generalizations dismiss the rich contributions Asian-Americans have made to the University. The submissive, golddigging, hypersexualized beings portrayed in the Rumpus are not the vocal, go-get-’em, independent Asian-American females we know. By the same token, the Asian males we know are passionate, strong-minded leaders — not sexless, passive nerds.
We’ve often heard the counterargument that Asians take themselves too seriously and that we need to lighten up or learn how to take a joke. That our concerns are so easily dismissed suggests that our community is not important enough to be respected when we take a stand on issues that concern us. There are some things we have to take seriously; there are some jokes we cannot continue to endure silently. We feel compelled to constantly speak out against this kind of humor because Asians are seen as easy targets who won’t protest. We believe it is important to challenge each and every one of these stereotypes to ensure that Asians do not continue to be the butt of crude and insensitive jokes. Although these incidents seem insignificant and isolated, if we continue to ignore them, we will send the message that it is acceptable to denigrate an entire community in the name of humor.
We are appalled and saddened that this low denominator of racially based humor will be among the first impressions admitted students will have of our diverse community. The joke is on all of us: not only Asian Americans, but women and the Yale community at large. We’re not laughing. We believe if the University has fostered an atmosphere of true tolerance — as it has strived to do for years — that the rest of the community won’t laugh either.
The views put forth in this column are endorsed by the Asian American Students Alliance, Alianza, Black Students Alliance at Yale, Chinese American Students Alliance, Dominican Student Association, InSight, Japanese Students Union, KASAMA, Korean American Students at Yale, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan, Muslim Students Association, Political Action and Education Committee of the Asian American Students Alliance, Realizing Race, Taiwanese American Society and the Vietnamese Students Association.
Christine Hung is a senior in Pierson College. Annette Wong is a senior in Berkeley College.