April 8, 2009

Just when we are starting to feel optimistic about race relations in this country (who in Densho’s extended family isn’t thrilled with the diversity of the Obama cabinet?), we hear an anti-Asian news story that brings back that old sickening sensation. When will people learn that an American face does not necessarily have European features?
A friend on the medical school faculty of Dartmouth College told me about this story:

Dartmouth’s new president, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a Seoul-born Korean American, last month was named the first Asian American president of an Ivy League school. The list of Dr. Kim’s accomplishments is too long for a blog. Very briefly, he’s a world-renowned physician-anthropologist who teaches medicine and human rights at Harvard and leads global health efforts in poor countries.

So what does an anonymous student call this brilliant educator and humanitarian? “Chinaman.”

Circulated in a daily enews was this “humorous” bit: “Yet another hard-working American’s job will be taken away by an immigrant…Unless ‘Jim Yong Kim’ means ‘I love Freedom’ in Chinese, I don’t want anything to do with him. Dartmouth is America, not Panda Garden Rice Village Restaurant…I for one want Democracy and apple pie, not Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen.”

Right. Now, to get that nasty taste out of your mouth, here’s an encouraging video of diverse Dartmouth students and faculty joyfully welcoming their new president. Meanwhile, it seems Densho needs to keep writing those civil liberties lessons.

Congratulations to Dr. Jim Yong Kim. A great American.