Response Letter to The Wake

Article in The Wake

An Open Letter to The Wake student magazine and Campus Progress

*Do not copy or repost without my explicit permission.

Dear Student Writers at the Wake Student Magazine and Campus Progress,

My name is Sarah Park and I am an assistant professor at St. Catherine University. I have a BA in Asian American Studies and earned my MA in Asian American Studies from UCLA, where you might know that recently a white student made a racist YouTube video about Asians in the library. I spoke up against that situation and now I am compelled to speak up against this situation: a couple days ago I saw your article titled, “White Students ‘Just More Comfortable’ at Chilly Billy’s” in The Wake.

I am very offended by the implicit privilege and explicit racism depicted by this article, and The Wake’s publication of such an article, for the following reasons:

  • Student Sarah Johnson is reported to have said, “Well, at FruLaLa I don’t even know if they speak English. How am I supposed to get normal frozen yogurt if I don’t know Chinese, right?” Ms. Johnson’s statement regarding her lack of fluency in Chinese betrays her ignorance of Asian cultures by conflating Chineseness with Koreanness – FruLaLa is owned and operated by Korean Americans. Regardless of who owns or works at FruLaLA, FruLaLa employees speak English and are perfectly capable of communicating effectively with all patrons.
  • Ms. Johnson’s use of the word “normal” shows her white privilege in being able to define what is “normal” and implicitly then what is not “normal.”
  • The article posits whiteness against non-whiteness, and particularly against Asianness.This kind of binary thinking is harmful, unproductive, and does not lead to social progress, social understanding, or social healing. Rather, whether spoken in jest or in truth, articles such as this perpetuate racism, xenophobia, and misunderstandings among society.
  • Patronage at frozen yogurt shops is diverse. The Pinkberry crave, begun in Los Angeles several years ago, testifies to this. Your article suggests that prior to Chilly Billy’s, frozen yogurt was not socially accessible for whites in the midwest. Perhaps that has more to do with campus climate perpetuated by attitudes and articles such as this than it does with the ethnic and cultural background of frozen yogurt shop owners. Minnesota is still in the top 15 whitest states in the nation, and white enrollment at UMN is at 72% while Asian enrollment is 9%.
  • Given the recent uproar over KDWB’s racist song about Hmong people, the xenophobic tendencies in our national politics and immigration policies, and ongoing hate crimes against non-whites both locally and nationally, it is socially irresponsible for The Wake to publish such racist views. I would add that, further, it is financially irresponsible as small businesses continue to struggle in this economy. Publishing an article criticizing a small business with racist views can do irreparable financial damage.

The publication of this article does not align with Campus Progress’ goal “to promote progressive solutions to key political and social challenges”; in fact, it does exactly the opposite. Freedom of speech and editorial freedom are one thing, but articles should still be guided by Campus Progress’ mission is to promote progressive solutions.” I completely disagree that this is merely a “controversial or offensive opinion,” as a CP representative wrote in response to a colleague’s letter (on this same issue). In fact, this article is outright racist and has no place in a progressive media outlet.

I recommend that The Wake issue a public apology and develop a process to review articles prior to publication. I honestly don’t believe that a media outlet would not review articles for grammar, quality, and style, much less for content. If these actions are not taken, I urge Campus Progress to pull funding from The Wake since it clearly does not align with CP’s mission.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Sarah Park, Ph.D., M.S., M.A.
Assistant Professor at St. Catherine University

UPDATE 4:42PM Campus Progress’ (Unsatisfying) Response

Prof. Park,

Thanks for your feedback. Our program supports progressive media outlets, which may occasionally present controversial or dissenting opinions. We believe in the editorial freedom of our grantees and do not review any work before it is published. Feel free to email us back if you have further questions or concerns.

David

David Spett

Journalism Network Associate

Center for American Progress

1333 H St. NW, 1st Floor

Washington, DC 20005

202.481.8202 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            202.481.8202      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

dspett@americanprogress.org

Campus Progress’ Journalism Network: Supporting and training the next generation of progressive journalists.

12 thoughts on “Response Letter to The Wake

  1. Margie

    Thanks for posting and for your letter sent to The Wake & Campus Progress. Well said! Hopefully more folks will write to them! Keep us updated with any responses you get.
    -Margie

  2. Erik

    i am on board with your charges and mission to form a post-racial society.
    i do, however, have a question for you- why do you constantly refer to ‘implicit privilege rather than ‘explicit privilege’? It’s clear that white privilege derives from an external factor (skin color) that further allows for such trash as the above essay? Shouldn’t you rather infer ‘explicit privilege’?

    1. Hi Erik, thanks for the comment. Privilege may derive from explicit external factors such as skin color, but it’s not always acknowledged. I think that’s why I said implicit, but I can see your point and could have stated it differently.

  3. elizabeth

    Waow. I am astounded n dumbfounded by this David person’s response. I find his response to be quite lackluster n careless. If that is all he can say in response towards your well-crafted cerebal post, he should not be such a position. Such total slack of nothingness conveyed… >_<…

  4. It’s okay to publish that article but not without the reporter’s input on the lie. This is simply the result of an unbelievably lazy editorial staff in my opinion. Kind of reminds me of articles on Onion, only they’re not trying to be funny here.

  5. Kate

    I found this response on the Wake’s website. I think the original article was meant as satire:

    Response to Finals Week Issue

    May 28th, 2011

    By Maggie Foucault

    To whom it may concern,

    It was recently brought to my attention that a small “news” short that
    appeared in our recent “Bizarro” finals week issue has been deemed
    offensive by some. The article referred to the newly-opened frozen
    yogurt shop, Chilly Billy’s, and their apparent popularity among white
    students. “Sarah Johnson” is not a real person; no part of this
    article is intended to be factual, but it was intended to represent an
    observation that I have been making recently. This was not meant in
    any way to imply that Fru-lala was not accessible to white students,
    or that Chilly Billy’s is only for white students and Fru-lala is only
    for Asian students. Instead, it was meant to point out this apparent
    divide and explore the reasons behind it.

    Fru-lala has been in Dinkytown for nearly two years, and I have rarely
    seen a white student inside. The same could be said about many
    establishments in Dinkytown and around the U campus; how many people
    knew where Le Crazy Taste was? If you compare the patrons of Pagoda
    and Potbelly’s, what do you think you’d find? The fact is, many of the
    students at the U are incredibly xenophobic and shy away from anything
    that is not in their cultural norm. Personally, when I first heard of
    Chilly Billy’s, I was shocked at the fact that someone would open a
    frozen yogurt shop only one block away from Fru-lala. What
    neighborhood needs two competing fro-yo shops? To me, the answer is
    clear: Chilly Billy’s is for students afraid of interacting with
    Minneapolis’ rich multi-cultural heritage.

    I wrote this “news short” as a tongue-in-cheek way to expose the
    inherent prejudices present on the University of Minnesota campus. It
    should make people feel uncomfortable, but it should not make people
    feel put down. I apologize if it came across that way, as that was
    never my intention. Growing up in Minneapolis, I have experienced so
    many different parts of what make this city great, and some of the
    most prominent and valuable facets are our incredible Asian-American
    communities.

    However, I am saddened by the attitudes found at the University of
    Minnesota, because they do not seem to be interested in preserving
    these communities. For example, the University of Minnesota no longer
    offers Vietnamese language classes, a recent development. I would
    assume that this will eventually lead to the loss of Hmong language
    programs at the U as well, something that I believe would be a huge
    loss. These language programs not only allow heritage speakers to
    preserve their culture and work on literacy in their first language,
    but also allow students from other communities to learn about and
    explore these cultures and languages. Without these programs, the
    Asian Languages and Literatures major will be dominated again by the
    big three of Asia – Korea, Japan, and China. While these cultures and
    communities are also important, they should not be prioritized at the
    detriment of smaller countries.

    As a student at the U, it bothers me that small businesses like Golden
    Bowl, Tofu House, Lotus, and Bahn Mi are less popular among the
    general student population than Noodles and Co., or Jamba Juice. While
    Chilly Billy’s is at least another small business (as far as I can
    find), the only reason it has a client base in Dinkytown is because
    students are afraid to branch out from their white suburban
    upbringing. I will not continue to stand idly by as this suburban
    xenophobic culture continues to dominate the University of Minnesota
    campus.

    Sincerely,

    Maggie Foucault
    The Wake Student Magazine
    Editor-in-Chief

    1. AC

      Satire should only be attempted by talented writers who can convey the tongue-in-cheek message that is not based off an individual’s assumption of a situation. Maggie’s reply validates for me the inappopriateness of the foot-in-mouth attempt at satire since it’s evident that she asserts that there is a cultural divide between Asian owned businesses and non-Asian owned businesses.

      The claims she makes are not only unfounded but ridiculous. Her examples not only compare apples and oranges (commercial chains like Noodles and Co. vs. locally owned Tofu House), but nearly every sentence is loaded with assertions that allude to an unconscious stereotype and prejudice that Maggie harbors herself.

      As the editor-in-chief of an university’s publication, I would expect more responsible rhetoric and at the very least, a respectable amount of research prior to spewing assertions in the form of an excuse for a poorly written “satire.”

  6. G

    This article is completely satire. It was published during finals week at the University of Minnesota. The University paper does a publication in the style of The Onion during finals as a gag. Obviously, you read into the article way too much. This blog post is incorrect, a waste of space, and a creation of unneeded drama.

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