To the Editor:
Towards the end of last week, several students approached me to express their disappointment over the joke issue column (“Confessions of a Jewish Asian Worshipper,” 4/1). I only came to know of the column after students came to talk with me. On Friday, I finally got a hold of the piece. As director of the Asian American Cultural Center and advisor to many Asian-American student organizations, it is my responsibility to respond to student concerns and support them in raising awareness and promoting a constructive dialogue.
The first thing I did after reading the column was contact Michael Barbaro, editor in chief of the Yale Daily News, and we came to the conclusion that a thoughtful dialogue among members of the community would be informative and help promote understanding and awareness. Granted, the last few days have been hurtful for many members of our community and painful for me to hear/read responses from students.
However, I would say we have moved forward. AASA and the News have agreed to jointly sponsor a forum where community members can talk about issues such as fetishes, gender and racial stereotypes, the role of the media and representations of ethnic groups, etc. To have let this column go unnoticed without addressing the larger issues would have been to accept stereotypes as truths and accurate representations of the Asian-American community.
Some have said that members of the Asian-American community are over-reacting. I think we are acting appropriately: we are raising awareness, generating dialogue and working with the News to address the issue. It’s obvious we are not a homogenous community but a diverse one with various opinions. Despite our differences, I hope we can all agree that misguided pieces only help affirm negative images; they don’t replace them with accurate ones.
April is Asian-American awareness month and all of our student groups spend countless hours to share and inform the larger Yale community about our cultural heritage and our social and political issues. Along with the heritage month, many campus groups have collaborated to bring to campus speakers and activists that address the adverse affects of stereotypes as a part of the Hate Crimes Awareness Series. As a campus daily, the News should have realized that the column was not only inappropriate but also ill-timed.
For me, it is sad this happened when it did. I can only hope that this upcoming forum will allow for conversations that help us explore the ramifications of passively accepting misrepresentations of a community.
April 9, 2001
The writer is an assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Asian American Cultural Center.