Chinese New Year Outrage

MAIL

To the Editors of the Crimson:

With all of the movements and programs taking place at Harvard to foster racial harmony, it is hard to believe what went on in Harvard's own Union on February 1.

In a disastrously ill-conceived attempt to commemorate the Chinese New Year, the Union displayed its idea of Chinese culture:

.Union workers wore large, round straw hats, the type of which you'd expect to see in a black-and-white 1940's photo of a Chinese farmer. These hats served no purpose whatsoever, except to offend diners. What connection did these hats have to modern day China? How many of these hats were seen in Tiananmen Square? Surely, Harvard would never dare to outfit its employees in Indian headdresses and war paint to celebrate the Native American heritage. Was the use of such hats any different?

.The Union gave out "Chinese placemats" to every student. Actually, these placemats were the tacky, Chinese restaurant variety, the type of which feature a dozen or so animals and tell you that you were born in the "Year of the Pig." Why were these placemats used? Did Ching-Hua Garden and the Hong Kong have an overstock? Other than providing a quick laugh for resturant goers, there is no connection between these mass-produced, simplistic placemats and the Chinese people.

.The Union blasted loud Chinese music. Actually, the music was just rock-and-roll sung in Chinese. It sounded awful, was too loud and was forced upon diners, most of whom would rather listen to their own choice of music in their dorm rooms rather than having it forced on them at the Union. Without even discussing the questionable decision of playing music at all, it is almost certain that the particular selections chosen could not have been more stupid, inane or offensive. It would not be surprising if the majority of students lost their appetites upon hearing the Chinese rendition of "Stars on 45."

This whole event was an outrage, and showed a complete lack of forethought and sensitivity on the part of the Harvard administration. All students, especially Chinese, have a right to feel indignant at this debacle. Surely, on the Jewish New Year, Harvard would never outfit Union workers with yamulkas and pass out Jewish New Year's songs in Hebrew. Yet the venerable administration feels it entirely appropriate to openly utilize and distribute paraphernalia which only serves to foster the kind of stereotypical perceptions which so many people have worked so hard to eliminate.

The Harvard administration should quickly issue an apology for the Union's celebration of Chinese New Year, and those responsible for the event should be properly dealt with. There is no place for such callousness and hypocrisy on this campus, and for that matter, on this planet. Stephen Lookner '93