A campuswide dialogue on allegedly racist articles published in the Yale Herald and Rumpus this month reached its zenith Thursday with a “silent” protest led by the Asian American Students Association.
AASA’s “Day of Silence,” during which students protested the articles by dressing in black and wearing black gags, concluded with a forum in which Herald and Rumpus editors met with members of the Yale community who expressed concern that recently published articles unfairly stereotyped African Americans and Asian Americans. Although many students supported the protest, others said they felt the criticism dealt to the Herald and Rumpus was undeserved.
The AASA-sponsored forum that capped off the day of protest, titled “Ethnic Jokes: Comedy or Tragedy?”, featured editors from the Herald and the Rumpus. Calhoun College Master Jonathan Holloway, who moderated the forum, stressed that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss campus racial issues fairly and openly.
“We’re here to build a community,” Holloway said. “We’re here to begin the process of creating that city on a hill that Yale already claims to be.”
Some students said they felt the offending articles were a result of a presumption that Asian Americans will not retaliate upon seeing racial discrimination.
But Rumpus Editor in Chief Sam Heller ’08 said the controversial article was an earlier version of a final draft that was published accidentally.
“I apologize deeply if the article offended anyone,” he said. “There was no calculation that Asians would be less capable of fighting back than any other ethnic group.”
Still, some students at the forum said they were concerned about some students’ attempts to placate the situation by telling minority groups to “lighten up” about published work that was only intended to “satirize” and “poke fun” at racial issues.
AASA President Priya Prasad ’08 said during the forum that she thought the Herald and Rumpus have harmed perceptions of Asian Americans by advancing stereotypes.
But Chris Kochevar ’07 said the articles were obviously written as satire, since the allegedly offensive remarks that were published were made by other students, not advanced as editorial viewpoints of the respective publications.
“What else could be the point of collecting quotes like those?” Kochevar said.
Earlier in the day, protesters said the two publications should have used their freedom and influence with more discretion.
“I think that the freedom of speech is an important value for us to uphold, but having decency and respect for other cultures and different types of people is important, too,” Jamilah Prince-Stewart ’09 said.
Elliot Watts ’09, who also donned black in protest yesterday, said that although he is not Asian American, he was offended by the contested articles’ racism.
“All students should see that this is a problem,” he said.
Watts said he was happy to see students of other minority groups rallying around the issue at the forum.
“An injustice really affects everyone,” he said. “If this conversation continues, people will learn to be more sensitive about racial issues.”
But some students who saw the protesters yesterday did not think that the contested articles deserved as much negative attention as they have received.
Teresa Ding ’08 said she was not offended by the articles.
“I personally see that article as funny,” she said, referring to “Me love you long time: A case of yellow fever,” which ran in last week’s Rumpus. “If someone makes generalizations about a group of people, it’s obviously a stereotype.”
Several University officials, including President Richard Levin and Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, have condemned the articles publicly, but said they do not plan to take any punitive action against the publications.