To the Editor:
We have been pleased with the level of discourse that has been taking place both within the pages of the Yale Daily News and outside of this forum. We would like, however, to make a few points regarding the role of the Asian American Students Alliance and its leadership in this debate.
First, AASA has not been the instigating force in stirring up students; rather, it was the overwhelming response and pressure from students approaching AASA that caused us to raise awareness about the joke issue column (“Confessions of a Jewish Asian Worshipper,” 4/1) and to approach the News. This is borne out by the high representation of critical letters to the editor in Monday’s paper and the absence of an official AASA opinion. Moreover, AASA does not have an army of respondents that it could mobilize in this type of situation, given that the Asian-American community includes so many diverse experiences and views. People condemned the column or the News not because we told them to, but rather because they genuinely found the column unacceptable.
Second, we were approached about the column not only by angry Asian-Americans, but also by black, Latino, Native-American and white students who saw the column as harmful.
Third, our goal was not to target a single author or the News as racist, but rather to raise awareness about relevant race and gender issues and to promote dialogue. With the help of the News and others, we have achieved that goal. Many people are now talking about this, and we have initiated a productive conversation with the News regarding the column and the debate that it demands. Clearly, then, far from being what Shawn Cheng (“Fanning the Racial Flames of a Joke,” 4/9) characterizes as a “sensationalized response” which has wasted everyone’s time, this has been a learning experience for many people and a chance for these issues to be discussed in a public forum.
Finally, to move forward from a debate over the column to a discussion of the larger issues that Justin Fong’s Harvard Crimson piece (“The Invasian”) raises, AASA and the News will co-sponsor an open forum this week. Surely a refutation of Cheng’s assertion that “There’s nothing ‘constructive'” about what’s been going on, the forum should help members of the Yale community to address the questions of stereotypes, fetishes, self-segregation, power relations and the role of the media.
Chiraag Bains ’03 and Ting-ting Liang ’03
April 9, 2001
The writers are co-moderators of the Asian American Students Alliance.