The ramifications of the remark directed toward David Ahn ’03 by Morse College dining hall manager Brian Frantz can only be fully understood by analyzing the circumstances in which it was said. Without having been there and heard the tone of voice and felt the change in atmosphere, it is not fair to criticize Ahn for the feelings of shock and humiliation that he expressed.
Let’s not blame the victim.
It is also unfair to make Frantz a martyr for the anti-PC cause when he never issued a statement saying that he was a victim of hypersensitivity.
Pointing fingers and clarifying details is not the issue here. Too many people have been screaming, “take it like a man,” diminishing Ahn’s right to address the issue in a public forum. What disturbs me the most is the overwhelming number of responses posted online that tell Ahn that he should have remained quiet, that KASY should have stayed out of the entire matter, and that the entire controversy does not promote cultural understanding, but glorifies self-victimization and whiny behavior.
Organizations like KASY were created for a reason. I’m glad that KASY was available as a forum for Korean American students to discuss what happened and relate to it because of their shared culture. A scholarly knowledge of a culture cannot even be compared to a personal and ethnic relationship with a culture.
KASY exists to serve not only the Korean American students on campus but also the larger Yale community. Ben Reiter, in his column “‘Kimchi’ remark in poor taste, but not racist” (2/8) was wrong in making the assumption that KASY was not taking any steps to use the incident to promote cultural understanding.
The first thing discussed in the KASY meeting after Ahn related the incident was “What can we do to help others understand more about Korean culture?” One must be able to put personal biases aside and separate the social aspects of an organization like KASY from the more important purpose: to act as a political vehicle through which Korean Americans may act in matters of importance to them.
In the nation as a whole, Asian Americans are not seen as a legitimate minority or as having bargaining rights when it comes to civil liberties, welfare checks, and tangles with discrimination. Asian Americans are one of the most socioeconomically successful minorities who know how to move up the social scale, gain admission to America’s Ivy League institutions, and work as licensed professionals.
These facts, combined with the stereotype of Asian Americans as docile, quiet nerds who care only about personal success and rarely rally to a social cause, strip Asian Americans of a voice. Asian Americans then become unable to speak out about cultural insensitivity or racism because these complaints are seen as illegitimate and petty.
Ahn had every right to speak up. Anyone who feels violated in some way has a right to speak up. No one should deny organizations like KASY the right to help members of our community feel a sense of legitimacy that the offending party took away.
Sarah Chang is a freshman in Pierson College. She is the political chairwoman for Korean American Students at Yale.