Posters were not meant to offend (1)
This has definitely been the most disturbing and dismaying experience in my life ["Campaign poster insulted blacks, trivialized Holocaust," March 9]. The whole event was evoked by a few innocent drawings on my election posters. . . .
I was the cartoonist for my high school newspaper and yearbook for several years, but nothing like this has ever happened. Even though my friends have told me that I have done nothing wrong or illegal, and that I should not apologize, I think it's appropriate that I apologize for whatever I`ve done to offend people. I am saying I am sorry and hope my sincere apology makes everyone feel better.
I am an artist with no intentions of provoking racism of any kind; besides, I am an international student myself. I have suffered and experienced what every other foreign minority has survived.
In addition, I was running for election, which needs support, not enemies. My cartoons were full of exaggeration, and I never expected people to take them so seriously. All 20 election posters disappeared the day after I posted them around the campus. People had torn down my election posters without the Undergraduate Association Election Commission's consent or my acknowledgment.
As I was wondering what had happened to all of my posters, I stepped into 10-250. Many of my friends yelled "Mark Lee!" at once and pointed toward the blackboard where the professor was standing. There it said, "Mark Lee #!/?x" and "Yo there. We want to talk to you! We are the world."
At that point, I felt threatened and harassed. One of my friends said if this had happened to her, she would have had nervous breakdown. At that point, I wasn't able to concentrate on the lecture, knowing people were offended by my election posters. Immediately after the lecture, I revised my election posters and posted them up around the campus again.
Unfortunately, on my way back from the Media Lab around 5 pm, I found some of my revised posters torn down. According to a UA election advisor, people did not like the lion because it conveyed the idea of jungles in Africa and an uncivilized land. I have only received one complaint concerning the panda representing China and the kangaroo representing Australia (excluding Andrew B. Ellis '93, who wrote me a letter stating that he was offended by the whole poster: Lincoln can't represent America, but only the United States; a picture of Hitler implies my ability to reenact death camps; the panda should not represent the government responsible for Tiananmen Square; the representative from Africa is similar to a baboon). I don't have the ability to please everyone. I think Andy's letter proved that quite well.
During the evening after the posters had been torn down, I received four phone calls: one from the Dean's Office, two from the UA Election Commission and one from a person whose name I won't disclose. Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Stephanie Harriston-Diggs wanted to set up an appointment for me to talk with a person who was offended, and I agreed. The UA office called to ask me about my intentions concerning the drawings on the posters, and Christine M. Coffey '93, the election commissioner, was especially supportive in providing advice.
My feeling of being threatened was intensified by a phone call from a person representing a group. After I made an apology for those who were offended and expressed willingness to revise my posters, the person gave me an analogy: "What if, let's say, I beat you up. Then the next day I say I am sorry and I won't do it again for the next few days. Is that okay? Isn't it the same thing?" I felt threatened, and I was threatened.
During the past week, instead of writing a letter of apology to The Tech, I wrote some personal letters of apology to those offended with help from the UA. Unfortunately, people took advantage of the fact that I had not responded publicly. In his column ["Censorship will not end racism," March 13], Andrew L. Fish '89 used me as an example of a racist to prove his point. And Shawn J. Mastrian '91's column ["For undergrads, a time for thanks," March 16] said, "The only interesting chap of the lot was Mark Lee '93, proving himself to be a racist. . . ." It is slanderous and libelous for someone to call me a racist.
I sincerely hope that this controversy will end peacefully. I truly had no racist intention of any kind in drawing those posters. I was expecting people to be amused, not to be affronted by them.
I had three major purposes for writing this letter. First and most important of all, I apologize to those who were offended by the posters. Second, I want to encourage anyone who feels affronted by posters or anything else to report it to the Dean's Office. Do not take action independently. Finally, I request explanations from those who have accused me of being a racist.
Mark Lee '93->