The Stanford Vietnamese Student Association Responds to Stanford Professor’s Offensive Article

by the Stanford Vietnamese Student Association (SVSA)

The Tribune Media Services recently published an opinion article titled, “Despite increasing prosperity, Vietnam’s appetites remain unique,” written by Stanford’s Joel Brinkley, a Hearst Visiting Professional in the Department of Communication. In the article riddled with stereotypical assertions and cultural judgments, Professor Brinkley has denounced the country of Vietnam and its people as “gruesome” and “aggressive” with a backwards diet of endangered animals in the midst of its rising economic status. The Stanford Vietnamese Student Association (SVSA), in solidarity with numerous on-campus organizations, find this article to be a perversion of the cultural image of Vietnam and an antithesis to the mission of universal tolerance and acceptance that Stanford University — students, faculty, and staff alike — should promote.

Professor Brinkley’s article is a thinly veiled attack on the culture of Vietnam with its culinary habits in the spotlight. His offensive statements and baseless arguments, such as the assertion that the Vietnamese have consumed almost all of their wild and domesticated animals, are grossly inaccurate and sensationalistic; they are loosely based on statistics that are rooted in unmentioned context. Professor Brinkley defends his opinion piece by stating that he has seen Vietnam with his own eyes on a short 10 day trip and that certain unnamed individuals have confirmed his story; he responds to opposition by further insulting other cultures with no scientific proof or backing. To these claims we must reply that his research was negligent and fallacious. The advancement of arguments based on personal observation and mere hearsay is incredibly negligent. It is impossible for Professor Brinkley to see the real Vietnam, with its beauty along with its true faults, if he approaches the experience with an ethnocentric prejudice. For example, his critical statements on the “tradition” of eating dogs for good luck are an incomplete literal translation of a Vietnamese proverb praising living dogs for bringing wealth to a family. He also seems to ignore that the consumption of dog is not “unique” to Vietnam.  His lack of care for properly introducing the traditions of a foreign culture is evident in his disregard for the subtle nuances of customs he does not understand. It is true that a small minority of the Vietnamese eat dog meat, but his portrayal of a barbaric Vietnamese population and his judgments on cultural practices that are different than his are simply racist. As for his native sources to whom he does refer, Professor Brinkley anonymizes them to reduce the perspectives of the Vietnamese people to hardly a whisper.

Furthermore, the Vietnamese population is composed of 54 ethnic groups, each diverse in its own customs. For Professor Brinkley to judge an entire nation by the actions of a few individuals is to ignore a hallmark of Vietnamese culture, beautiful because it is so multifaceted.

Given his reputable career as a Pulitzer-winning foreign correspondent for multiple large publications — not to mention his ambassadorship to academia here at Stanford — Professor Brinkley has a responsibility to present the truth. In this regard, he has disappointed the student body he has pledged to mentor and inspire as an educator; we expect more from our professors than unscientific claims connecting the supposed “aggression” of an entire nation to the meat on their dinner plates. His influence in the industry becomes a misguided weapon: By condemning a culture he hasn’t bothered to understand, he insults not only the native Vietnamese, but Vietnamese and other Asians around the world. We have endured and fought against the stereotypical jokes and rumors surrounding our cultures, but he has pushed Asian Americans back into the “foreigner” status, outliers in their new homes. Professor Brinkley has poorly reflected the Stanford community, oft-considered a haven of cultural understanding and critical thinking, and he has tainted the atmosphere of tolerance for diversity on our campus.

To Professor Brinkley: You wrote in a previous article that Vietnam “is a country to watch — and perhaps, one day soon, to admire.” We hope that in light of our response you will revisit your insensitive words with a clearer understanding of your mistaken judgments and instead give Vietnam and its people a fair chance to reach the potential you once envisioned.

In solidarity,

Stanford Vietnamese Student Association
Stanford Asian American Activism Committee
Stanford Asian American Students’ Association
Stanford Hmong Student Union
Stanford Korean Student Association
Stanford National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Stanford Sigma Psi Zeta
Stanford Lambda Phi Epsilon
Stanford Alpha Kappa Delta Phi
Muslim Students Awareness Network
Stanford Black Student Union
Stanford Pilipino American Student Union
ASSU Community Action Board
ASSU 14th Undergraduate Senate
Stanford Asian American Graduate Student Association
SEALNet (Southeast Asian Leadership Network)
Stanford Movimento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán
Stanford Khmer Association


Formed in the spring of 1993, the Stanford Vietnamese Students Association (SVSA) has served as a second family for all members, providing a support network as well as opportunities to increase cultural and ethnic awareness. SVSAparticipates in many on-campus activities, including its annual Lunar New Year Festival, Spring Culture Night, and High School Academic Conference. SVSA seeks to not only cultivate awareness, culture, and community among our members, but we aim to spread our message among the different communities at Stanford and beyond.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , ,

39 thoughts on “The Stanford Vietnamese Student Association Responds to Stanford Professor’s Offensive Article

  1. […] The Stanford Vietnamese Student Association Responds to Stanford Professor’s Offensive Article (stnfrdstatic.com) […]

  2. MaM says:

    I notice those so “outraged” people couldn’t even specifically say exactly words for words what the professor wrote that is completely untrue or fabricated. Instead, they resorted to name-calling (“this idiot”, “make an ass”, etc). They think they represent but they represent nobody, certainly they don’t represent all Vietnameses. Their hypocrisy is astounding: they called the professor “racist” just because he reflects on a reality that many Vietnamese themselves know and are shameful of. Maybe they will call those Vietnamese “racists” too ! Or maybe if the professor say nice things about them, they he won’t be a “racist”.

    Too often when someone criticizes them, the first thing that they do is to run their mouths as if that’s the way they were educated to do (god forbid that might be true, looking at their high-school books).

    That’s why they are slow to change for the better. That’s why they always find it hard to innovate.

    • Hi there,

      Here is the comments I wrote on Chicago Tribune on the original article, hope it will satisfy your taste :). And please do have a respect for such a nation. What you aggregately call as “they” actually point to a lot of people, among them are many good ones!

      “Beside the dog meat issue, I wish you all could please know that the Vietnamese solders did help the world to end the genocide in Cambodia during the 1979 unrest. It’s sure a long and hard story but very far from an invasion. So many international friends already stood up for our justice. I understand and share the Vietnamese reader’s felling. I believe this journalist is a very rare, isolated case. His post is extremely poor in quality and ill structured. Our western friends who are sharp on critical thinking can spot his flaws easily and therefore we don’t have to worry.

      Put it aside, I still strongly object the habit of eating dog, cat and the like. I’ve lost 2 dogs for the same reason. I even have to protest quite hard to prevent myself from accidentally eat those kinds of meat. The lost of my 2 dogs is forever in my heart!”

  3. Anonymous says:

    So typical of the American hypocrisy, so true of this idiot, the so call professor of journalism. For Stanford, a well regarding institution, to employee this guys, is such a disgrace.

  4. Anonymous says:

    oh my, are you guys all from Stanford? Did they only teach you how to say st rationally in Standford. I bet you learnt from professors like Brinkley. This isanEnglishclass?.

    An normal person with an IQ of a five years old would know that being a correspondent, some should at least keep his writing truthful, accurate and objective. Brinkley’s article has non of those. It didnt have any fact, any statistic and highly Americancentric.

    I saw an idiot up there saying eating dog is wrong, let me tell you what, shooting your mother and 20 kids is wrong, eating someone else’s dog is wrong, there is nothing wrong with eating dogs, not in Vietnam, Korea, Japan, China!

    I don’t have problem with people bad mouthing VN, but do it fairly. Kindafelt sorry for him How he disgrace himself by throwing a such sacasstic and emotional article.

  5. Quan Tran says:

    Although I agree at the first about wildlife. However, about tradition and culture, We can’t apply one’s rules to another. In the USA, American could be close to dogs more than man. That doesn’t mean American are aggressive to man, right?. Vietnamese we treasure relationship between people more than dogs. That doesn’t mean we are aggressive..

  6. Vietnamese says:

    Ăn thịt chó để được may mắn? LOL

  7. vap says:

    this guy is a douche and a half too, makes it all that much worse

  8. asdf says:

    All those around the world have been enraged by him. Most of them can’t do much in person, but we, as students with access and proximity to his workplace, can. Is there a protest against him and/or the department of communication being planned? It would be so awesome!

  9. Neaato Org says:

    DELETE THE COMMENT SECTION STANFORD VSA. TRUST ME. LOL

  10. you says:

    My god, did the professor put his foot in his mouth or what ! Dissing on someone else’s food is a no-no. Don’t do it.

    But to the writers of the letter above, here is what I think.

    When you make a rebuttal (in this case, the writers of the letter above), there are two basic rules.
    First, you have to stay relevant.
    Second, you have to double-check your facts very carefully.
    After all, when you rebuttal, you have more time to aim than your adversary (who in this case is the professor). The bar set for you has to be higher than for him.

    Helas, you kind of failed on both counts. I’ll hereby explain both.

    First, what the hell does having 53, or 54, or 55 ethnic minorities have anything to do here in denouncing the professor ? Irrelevant. If you insist it is relevant, then you are really in trouble because it’s so weak.

    All you need to say here is: though many Vietnamese do eat dogs (some practices borderline cruelty) not all Vietnamese eat dogs meat (the practice is more prominent in the North-Vietnam).
    You can also bring out the fact that it’s not an everyday food either.

    Saying so, you brings more relevant information, acknowledge what is correct, and what is exaggerated (by the professor). Only then, you’ll gather more understanding and sympathy.

    {Note to readers: some of the practices are beating the animal while alive to make the meat tastes better},

    Now to the other point. You charged the article’s writer with: “his critical statements on the “tradition” of eating dogs for good luck are an incomplete literal translation of a Vietnamese proverb…”

    Either you’re misinformed, or you’re being lowly and dishonest. In this article (found by a random curiosity), the phrase:
    “Thoi quen “giai den” cuoi tháng bang thit cho cua nguoi Viet…” does means: The habit of “getting out of bad luck” at the end of month of us Vietnamese”. (see link).

    So at least there are some fact in what he said.

    And if I may, I’d like to add one more thing for you to think about (though I have my doubts). You charged the professor with :

    “Professor Brinkley has denounced the country of Vietnam and its people as “gruesome” and “aggressive” with a backwards diet of endangered animals in the midst of its rising economic status. ”

    That was a quick one, isn’t it. No, you can’t fool nobody.

    His exact words were: “Visiting Vietnam, many Western visitors despair. As one Western blogger put it: “I can quite honestly say it’s the most gruesome thing I have ever seen.”

    I know, I know. The professor wasn’t very innocent right-there either (using random people’s quote to make his point).

    But everybody can see you’re twisting his words to your agenda. Bad bad, very bad.

    He was somewhat dishonest in generalizing. You, the writers of the letter denouncing him, are even worst. You’re dishonest, defensive, and juvenile.

    http://www.kimdodanang.com.vn/tin-tuc-xem/7/31/mon-an-may-man-va-triet-l%E2%80%8Ey-cua-nguoi-viet/nha-hang-tiec-cuoi-da-nang.html

    To all other readers, please forgive me for my writing errors, for English not being my first nor second language.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why should the professor be the only focus of the reply? If he reads this he won’t change his thinking much, though he might not be so quick to make an ass of himself. This article is also for the benefit of readers who would not think like him, but who could learn more about Vietnam. It is for the benefit of people who need to know that racism is not okay, and here is why and here is the truth. So it would be a mistake to let the offender decide what things should be argued about.

      Also, there’s no reason to let people get away with thinking something is wrong with eating dogs, if they somehow think eating other mammals, or other animals, is just fine.

      • you says:

        Duh ! The letter addresses to the professor, not general readers !

        Anyways, I’m relieved that professor didn’t find out that some northern Vietnamese beat the dogs to a pulp (while the dogs still alive) just before they kill them, so that the meat will tastes better.

        They, the letter’s writers, argue that the professor mis-translated/misunderstands some proverb, but in fact he was right saying some Vietnamese eat dogs to garner luck. So even in their rebuttal, they made a mistake. And what was that about para-quoting what he said about “gruesome”. That’s low and uncalled for.

        Kind of sad a bunch of human’s brains grouped together couldn’t produce a better argument. I guess they still have much to learn.

        The lesson to learn here is, when you denounce someone vehemently, you better stay focus to what the person actually said, not what you think he said.

        And always stay honest. Honesty goes a long way and people do notice.

        Not going on a tangent because someone tell the truth about you.

        Strangely reading the denouncing letter gave the readers a reverse effect of what the writers wanted. One can’t help but wonder that some if not many information of what the professor presented must be true. Truth hurts, isn’t it.

      • esqg says:

        @you: You could say it’s an open letter. “A published letter on a subject of general interest, addressed to a person but intended for general readership.” But only the last part is even addressed to him.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad that you respond; however, the writing is so very childish and emotional. I always think that students at Stanford must be bright and deep, but clearly not! Can you go much deeper to counter what he wrote about history, war, the cause and the effects? What about any scientific proofs in correlation between eating meat and human behavior?

    • esqg says:

      Childish and emotional? Really?

      There are so many things one could say in response to Brinkley’s article. It merits a response like this one; it is not worth the time you suggest in countering every ridiculous hypothesis someone puts forth on scientific grounds. As another commenter pointed out, Americans overall eat far more meat than anyone else, but even that is taking his idea too seriously. It is only Brinkley’s emotions, xenophobia and/or racism against Vietnamese people, that allow him or perhaps others to imagine that meat-eating, judged subjectively, is any basis for diagnosing cultural trends, also judged subjectively.

    • Yeah, right, like the burden of proof is on Vietnam says:

      If we’re going to talk about aggression, let’s point the finger at the country that was responsible for massacring entire villages in Vietnam.

      If we’re going to talk about aggression, let’s point the finger at the country that is currently bombing funerals and weddings in Pakistan.

      Evopsych: Pretty weak if your hypotheses are centered in bigotry.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Haha, I think it’s so unfair for chickens, turkeys, pigs, fish, and any other animals we eat daily. Why nobody stand up for them? Why no articles wrote about them? I think Brinkley is simply animal-ist (Help, is there a word for animal discrimination???)

  13. Revan says:

    Can Stanford Student write a better response?

    This writing is purely objective, prideful, irrelevant and full of questionable remarks.

    In short “Hey you are short-sighted, you are blah blah blah. You were wrong, our country is beautiful … (more bull). You cannot judge us like that, it will hurt our asses. We are little bunnies who really cares about how you view our multicultural country as a barbaric state (You said it yourself). Remember you said nice about us, we are very disappointed now. Please say sorry and correct it because we expected more of you.

    So pathetic. If they are going to pull a better article out of their asses, they had better stand up first.

    May I quote just a small part of this lengthy article.

    “For example, his critical statements on the “tradition” of eating dogs for good luck are an incomplete literal translation of a Vietnamese proverb praising living dogs for bringing wealth to a family.” => Eating dog and raising a dog is irrelevant. Some people have pet pigs you know.

    “He also seems to ignore that the consumption of dog is not “unique” to Vietnam.” => More irrelevance. But I can understand why a Vietnamese wrote like this. In Vietnam, people cross red lights because other people do so too. So it’s not wrong because other people do it too.

    “It is true that a small minority of the Vietnamese eat dog meat, but his portrayal of a barbaric Vietnamese population and his judgments on cultural practices that are different than his are simply racist.” => If “small” means “a lot” then you are right.

    “Furthermore, the Vietnamese population is composed of 54 ethnic groups, each diverse in its own customs. For Professor Brinkley to judge an entire nation by the actions of a few individuals is to ignore a hallmark of Vietnamese culture, beautiful because it is so multifaceted.” => Are you blaming on other ethnics? “Hey there are 53 other tribes so they are the culprits not us. And don’t judge that cuz the more the merrier.

    Eating dog is wrong no matter what you say, and driving wild animals to extinction is even worse. Don’t bother to defend.

    And defending while apologizing is stupid.

    It’s not wrong to defend your nation. But do it in a rational way.

    • Interested says:

      Are you against eating any animals? Or just dogs? I’ve never entirely understood this inconsistancy that is often found. What makes dogs special?

    • Anonymous says:

      why is eating dog wrong?

    • Phuoc Phan says:

      To be honest, I think it’s the problem with your ability to comprehend the article.
      let me quote

      “For example, his critical statements on the “tradition” of eating dogs for good luck are an incomplete literal translation of a Vietnamese proverb praising living dogs for bringing wealth to a family.” => Eating dog and raising a dog is irrelevant. Some people have pet pigs you know. ::: =>>> Don’t you understand English. The author points out that the author misunderstand the proverb ” … ” and think that VNese people eat dog for good luck, seriously? learn some English before you post

      “He also seems to ignore that the consumption of dog is not “unique” to Vietnam.” => More irrelevance. But I can understand why a Vietnamese wrote like this. In Vietnam, people cross red lights because other people do so too. So it’s not wrong because other people do it too. ::: => Let me give you a more simple example for your kind to understand. Let’s say, I say A is bad because he does F practice. However, B also does F practice ( even more ), but we don’t call B bad. Then, doing F practice is really bad should be put into consideration, or maybe judging A bad from F practice alone is not objective.

      “It is true that a small minority of the Vietnamese eat dog meat, but his portrayal of a barbaric Vietnamese population and his judgments on cultural practices that are different than his are simply racist.” => If “small” means “a lot” then you are right.
      =>>> is your point saying that a lot of Vietnamese people eat dog meat? Come on, get real boy. You are not pointing our flaws, you are assuming statistic that aren’t facts.

      Anyway, I don’t like stupid people. I believe that the respond from Stanford VSA has flaws, but not the one you are pointing out. So tell me, have you graduated from middle school yet ?

      • Julian says:

        Phuoc Phan, I have to say that your reply is very pretentious and it’s incomprehensible at some points. Don’t even mock people about their english; from what I see, Revan’s english is way better than yours.

        Let’s be real. This article, although it speaks for the Vietnamese’s rage, is very weak and irrelevant at many, many points. I would like to point out that some Vietnamese people DO think that eating dog’s meat will bring them good luck for the New Year, so there’s no ‘mis-translation’ of any kind. And Phuoc Phan, please tell me what you want to say about A, B, and F. I don’t even see what you’re trying to accomplish here. Of course, we all understand the points in SVSA’s article, but it contains irrelevant parts here and there. The authors include many arguments that don’t help their stand at all (about this I totally agree with Revan).

        I was happy to see Vietnamese students’ response to Brinkley, but this article is just disappointing, if you know what I mean. Ah of course you wouldn’t know; you whole-heartedly supported it. I see your special talent to see what we can’t see in this article. This must prove that you have graduated from middle school, right?

      • Phuoc Phan says:

        Julian,
        Please poined out in which specific line in my response did I say that Revan’s English is wrose than mine? I basically say he is incapable of understand simple article written in his first language. I’m aware that my English is not as good as you guys, but I do understand the article better than him in my opinion
        @Julian: there are some American think white is the best race (KKK), so do they represens what the USA people believe in? That applies to the point about eating dog. My point about ABF simply means that if someone take an action and being judged as bad. While others do exactly the same or even more but not being judged as bad, then there is something wrong going on. Either the action itself is not bad, or the people who judges are not objective.

      • Anonymous says:

        1. If you thought that telling somebody to learn some English before posting a comment is not equivalent to judging their English (either better or worse than yours, it is still offensive and irrelevant and impolite judgement); then I would better argue with you in your native language.
        2. No matter how significantly rational your ABF example means to this argument, it fails to defend the whole point. Neither Brinkley or Stanford students claimed that other countries, where eating dogs is common, did not do anything wrong. You know, A and B are irrelevant, so for God’s sake, B should not care if A is committing a crime or A is doing charity.
        3. So tell me, have you graduated from elementary school yet?
        Well, respectfully, I was just using your sense of humor. No offence.

    • Speaktruth10 says:

      Revan you are an idiot and completely miss the point of Brinkley’s article. It wasn’t about driving animals to extinction, this assertion is simply fallacious. He painted an entire country with a single brush. That is the problem.

      • Revan says:

        I don’t defend Brinkley. It’s alright for you guys to defend your beloved nation. I am criticizing the ones who wrote this article. Can’t you even tell?This article is so naively written with an apologizing tone.

    • Anonymous says:

      I see Americans eating beef. If I were a practicer of Hinduism, I’d see a problem with eating beef. Would I see Americans as barbaric? No. Europeans sometimes eat horses; do we characterize all Europeans as barbaric? No. Some Latin Americans eat bull testicles. Do we characterize Latin Americans as barbaric? No. Do you see my point here?

    • JP says:

      your comment makes no sense at all…..

    • I might agree with you but just want to note that Vietnamese in general are more emotional than rational (this is just a cultural fact, we’re working on it too so don’t you worry too much :D). Therefore I think it’s predictable to see such weak points you’ve mentioned, but that’s just seem reasonable when someone get hurt, right? Also, since this writing speaks not for an individual but for a group of people, it tends to be politicized and might fail to be truthful. So I guess it’s a very tough job to write such article like this because on one hand you have to face a group of emotionally hurt people and on the other hand, you have to be rational too. Therefore, I would not criticized the author so hard.

      Anyway, what Prof. Joel Brinkley committed here was an insulting exaggeration of “half true”. He simply takes out the negative snippets and magnified it with a factor of 10 or above and called it an article. So it’s hard to say that he is completely wrong, but his intend and manner is really troubling a lot of people, not only Vietnamese. I just have enough of this guy. Since he travels the whole world, how can he keep looking at our nation like that?

      Also, his depiction of Vietnamese military involvement in Cambodia in 1979 as an invasion was an outright lie. If you want the truth, please come to Cambodia today and ask the people there. 😀

  14. Anonymous says:

    Don’t Americans eat a lot of meat?

  15. avv says:

    Thankfully, the article has spoken for my rage. I don’t know how he has earned the prestigious Pulitzer prize, but the article “Despite … unique” of his has clearly disqualified his credential.

  16. esqg says:

    Don’t you love it when Americans get derogatory about eating practices in other countries. Yeah, I checked that he’s American.

    • saltysugar says:

      The most ironic thing is that he claims Vietnamese to be more aggressive because we consume meat more than our neighbor nations. Probably he forgot that the US tops the list of meat consuming nations according to a recent statistics (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/07/02/americans-eat-the-most-meat/).

    • EvaO says:

      @esqg You basically said the equivalent of “homophobia is retarded.” Brinkley was being racist and ethnocentric by generalizing the practices of a few to the behavior of a whole country. Your comment just did the same thing.

      • esqg says:

        @EvaO

        I understand what you’re saying, but it’s not at all the same thing. The context here is that I’m writing on a blog run at a university within the US, and I’m talking about the US (and I’m American myself but that is not as relevant this time), and it’s in English. Because of that context we can expect readers to know that America is a diverse country, and to know that there’s a difference between individuals’ eating habits, cultural habits, and the way food is produced here. So you can figure out what my comment actually means (just read some of the food-related articles on STATIC, even), or if you think it’s treating all Americans as the same, you can know that’s wrong.

        However, Brinkley was able to be racist and ethnocentric by writing about Vietnam to a, let’s say “primarily Western”, audience, appealing to the subset of the audience who won’t bother to get that there’s anything to question about his writing. And he apparently has no such conception of any distinctions, or any reasons that his personal ideas about what to eat might not be the right ones.

        For the record, no, I don’t support homophobia, or the self-hatred it would imply for me; and I don’t support mentally ableist slurs. You really didn’t need that unpleasant analogy to make your point. Do you see mine?

      • JoLi says:

        Given that this is an article written in the US about other countries, Brinkley is in a position of privilege. It is not prejudiced to point out that Brinkley’s article stemmed from a privileged lack of self-assessment.

What do YOU think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: