Yehsong Kim is a Senior at Northwestern University studying Psychology and Creative Writing. She is involved in Asian American InterVarsity as the large group coordinator and works at the Center for Student Involvement in Norris. She is passionate about issues regarding race, Asian American identity and faith. She loves to hear people's stories and hopes to go into counseling one day.
The “I believe” statement indicates that it should be a positive one. The phrase “I believe” sounds so optimistic in and of itself. Those two words create images of hope, grandeur, democracy. “We believe Northwestern” even moreso, I think, holds a hushed power over us, hinting to us that we should purport positive ideas, which then also suggests that we push away our negative feelings, negative experiences, negative perceptions, the pressure of speaking for an institution heavy upon us. But this is who I am. I am a pessimist. I am a misanthrope. And I believe in the validity of my voice.
I look at the world around me, or more specifically, my Northwestern bubble. Northwestern, a top 20 university, is a place where some of the brightest people in America come. People are more educated here than in most places in the world, so that implies that they should be the least ignorant, too. Then, Northwestern should be a more tolerant place than most of the world.
And yet, here at Northwestern, I am marginalized as an Asian American. I am othered. I am too often seen as Asian, rather than as an individual. Once, during my freshman year, I brought home leftovers from Flat Top Stir-Fry Grill, a pseudo-pan-Asian restaurant, and my white American roommate, who loves Flattop, opened our fridge and commented, “Whoa, that Korean food smells so strong, but so good.” It was not a malicious comment, just misinformed. I brushed it off.
Later that same year, I came across a thread on a blog about Northwestern titled “Fuck All the Asians.” Bewildered, confused and honestly curious, I decided to read it and found myself reading a diatribe about how “Asians at Northwestern did not contribute at all to the school”, how “all Asians did was study and ruin everyone’s GPA” and a long list of more anonymous comments whole heartedly agreeing. Outraged, I tried talking to my Asian and non-Asian friends about this, but I was met with apathy, with people trying to placate me, telling me that I needed to understand that that was only a tiny, ignorant minority of students. My sense of injustice was suppressed by the majority.
Now, two students get egged on our campus for being Asian and women, and the worst part is that my peers, fellow Northwestern students are outraged that this happened, not because it was a hate crime, but because now due to “other racist people,” we as community are “forced” to continuing to talk about the racism that is deeply embedded, implicitly running rampant in our society for more than three weeks.
In the midst of all of this ugliness, my pessimism has run into hyper drive, too. While these issues are plaguing my daily thoughts and the seemingly gargantuan-ness of it all is threatening to overwhelm me, I am asked to look within myself and find a positive statement to espouse. I believe that for me to do so at this moment would be forgery at best. I believe that doing such a thing would be lying to you and to myself. I believe that these negative feelings should be allowed in any space. Real life is not about compartmentalizing. Living true to yourself is not about catering to the environment and leaving behind other bits and parts that may not belong. My negativity is a part of me and should not be seen as something that needs to be changed, something that needs to be fixed, something that is not good or good enough. This implies that I am not good or good enough. No, I am a pessimist. I am a misanthrope. And I believe in the validity of my voice.