After reading the article (“Yale employee’s racial remark elicits hardened response,” 2/6), the guest column by Ben Reiter ’02 (“‘Kimchi’ remark in poor taste, but not racist,” 2/8), and the Internet message boards, it is apparent that the original article did not fully convey some aspects of the incident. I hope to remedy these misunderstandings.
From the outset, I explicitly wanted to avoid blowing up the situation and being labeled a hypersensitive “rabble rouser.” I was aiming for a measured response that would promote dialogue, raise awareness and lead to some real changes. I did not contact the Yale Daily News and never intended for this incident to make news beyond the Korean American Students at Yale and Morse College. Perhaps that was wishful thinking. By clarifying some facts, I hope my actions will seem justified.
Brian Frantz reserved a contemptuous comment for Korean food, not for prior theme food suggestions like Mexican and Indian. Whether intentional or not, his tone was derogatory and dismissive, as if Korean food were not even worthy of consideration. An informal poll of others at the meeting confirms my belief that Frantz rejected the suggestion with palpable condescension. Not only did he demean the food I grew up on, but he also indirectly offended Korean culture.
I am not objecting to the well-known fact that some Koreans eat dog. I object to Frantz’s stereotyping of Korean food as if it were barbaric and somehow immoral. I especially object to his dismissal of my native cuisine and culture. In hindsight, I wish I had communicated Frantz’s tone more clearly, and I take responsibility for this confusion. But what should be the issue here is how I felt at the time, not how others think I should have felt, especially people who were not even at the meeting. I was the butt of a racially insensitive joke in a public forum.
My report to Frantz’s superior is not meant as a reprimand and does not seek any formal punishment. It states my belief that Frantz made an egregious mistake, but that his comment was still a mistake. Therefore, I have accepted his apology. I stress in the report that the incident should simply go on his record in the event that Frantz were to show intolerance again, in which case there would be more cause for concern. He is a dining hall manager who represents Yale and who frequently deals with our diverse student population. For now, the report should have no bearing on the evaluation of his performance, and I communicated this request in my letter to Frantz’s superior.
I hope that I have cleared up some details so that my actions do not seem “just plain vindictive.” By discussing the issue with KASY, my goal was to make the Korean community aware that events like this can occur, even at an accepting place like Yale. As minorities, there is no choice but to be prepared for racially insensitive comments and actions. The only option is to deal with each incident as best we can.
Finally, to Reiter and everyone else who wishes to learn more about the diverse groups on campus: cultural education is a two-way street. It often seems that ethnic groups preach to deaf ears. We truly want the wider community to listen.
So, come to a KASY meeting. Come to the KASY cultural show this spring. Come to the spring performance of Unity, the traditional Korean drumming troupe. In fact, as a gesture of reconciliation and understanding, Unity still plans to hold its spring show in the Morse dining hall. I sincerely hope the aftermath of this incident will go beyond simply sparking dialogue to actually making a concrete difference.
David Ahn is a junior in Morse College.