To the Editor:
After reading the columns written by Ben Reiter (“‘Kimchi’ remark in poor taste, but not racist,” 2/8) and David Ahn (“‘Kimchi’ remark merits report,” 2/11) along with letters and the online forum related to the “kimchi” controversy, I’m left feeling thoroughly disgusted by the ugliness shown by many Yale students who have stood against Ahn.
Much of the commentary touches on the political correctness debate, but in a language and tone that is laughably juvenile and, at times, ignorantly vile. I agree with the many valid points to be made against a society that polices every word and mandates political correctness at every turn. I value free and open dialogue and am more than fully aware that PC rules can be dangerously stifling: case in point, the Washington, D.C. city official who lost his job for using the word “niggardly.” But free speech is a poor defense for what are often statements meant to do nothing but insult or denigrate, however subtle or seemingly without “malicious intent.”
Which brings me to my overarching point: in our increasingly diverse society you have the right to speak your mind, but when it insults and demeans a culture or ethnicity, expect that someone will take offense and react. Many people seem to be saying to Ahn, “suck it up and be a man.” Well, for decades Asian-Americans had no choice but to “suck it up,” at deadly cost. The Supreme Court told Japanese-Americans to “suck it up” when they were thrown into internment camps.
I’m sure he could have leaped across the table and began throwing punches in defense of his heritage. Would that have pleased those who deem Ahn “prissy?” Hardly. It would merely have painted Mr. Ahn as just another angry, uncivilized, karate-chopping Asian man. Considering the fact that Ahn’s other potential responses were to 1) sit there meekly and let the insult stand or 2) come to blows, I applaud him for choosing to display for the wider community the ramifications of demeaning or dismissing someone’s heritage in a public forum.
Steve Nam ’01
February 11, 2002