In this column, I hope to clear up some of the misconceptions around Tigers for Liberty’s (TFL) tabling last week on the subject of Mao’s founding of the People’s Republic of China. I’ve heard that some people were offended at us handing out fortune cookies in order to raise awareness about the horrors of Mao’s China. However, I would respond to this simply — is it not more upsetting to remember the fact that 60 million people died at the hands of this leader?
The purpose of our table was to bring light to the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and get people thinking about a humanitarian crisis which is often swept under the rug when discussing the evils of the mid-20th century. This is an issue which hits close to home for TFL: one of our officers was born in China and is a survivor of the One Child Policy, born as a second child but later adopted by an American family, escaping this oppressive government law and instead living a free life in the United States. Another one of our members lived in Taiwan and mainland China for many years and is passionate about Chinese culture and politics.
So, trust us, we understand the gravity of the subject.
We chose to use the fortune cookies as a way of getting people’s attention, engaging them by getting them up close and personal with these shocking facts. Saying that Maoism hurt millions of people is not us feeding into the “Red Scare” — but is merely stating objective fact.
To those who were offended by the manner in which we created this display — claiming racism is a strong move that should be considered carefully. How, may I ask, is it considered racist to educate people about an ideology and a man who committed atrocious crimes against humanity? If Mao was white, black or any other race, we would’ve done the same exact thing. We’re willing to also table on the atrocities of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini, and I suspect we will. If you’re interested in helping us out, we’d love for you to join us.
If your issue is with the drawing on the poster: the depiction of Mao was largely copied from propaganda posters he himself commissioned, so I fail to see how this can be considered a caricature. If your issue is with the fact that we used fortune cookies, which are not authentically Chinese, then I would ask you to take a step back and think about why this offends you. We realize fortune cookies are originally from the United States; however, they have come to represent Chinese culture, and they worked well in getting our message across. Countless Chinese restaurants across the nation owned by Chinese-American families also use fortune cookies … are they considered racist for doing so?
And again, please keep in mind: what is more offensive? Using fortune cookies to educate the public about a dark period in history, or the fact that one man was responsible for the deaths of 60 million of his own people?
The part that is most troubling to me about this entire tabling issue is that instead of airing their grievances with us directly, people have instead taken to emailing David Tuttle and Jamie Thompson. Instead of having an actual discussion with us, at the table, people have instead chose to petition Student Government Association to “take action,” to tweet complaints to their circle of friends and to expect the Trinity higher-ups to give us a talking-to.
This is not how adults handle problems. If you have a problem with this table, or any other TFL event, please email me or Isaiah Mitchell (chairman of TFL, firstname.lastname@example.org). Emailing Tuttle about small issues like this is not only a waste of his time, but also a great way to slow down any change you actually want to see. Isaiah and I will listen and respond to any concerns you have, and I can guarantee you that we’ll give you a better and quicker answer than a third party such as Tuttle.
Furthermore, I think that some often forget that members of TFL are students in this community, too. We study in the library, eat in Mabee and go to class. If you want to talk about something regarding our organization, do the mature thing and talk to us directly. We exist in the same space that you do, believe it or not, and will not at all object to having a mature and intellectual discussion about these issues.
The purpose of our table was to get people thinking about these atrocities that society often forgets, and I believe that was achieved. If you would like to discuss this with me further, please do not hesitate to email me. Or, handle things the old-fashioned way: come up to me, introduce yourself, and start a conversation.