Yun Ch’i-ho and America

Sexuality, in many aspects, is a big topic in modern culture and society. It is a broad topic that can be looked at through many perspectives. However, in Yun Ch’i Ho’s experience, race was the most prevalent factor, and was the main cause of his insecurities. It was obvious that during Yun’s time here, United States of America was, for lack of a better term, white. Yun made it evidently clear that he was insecure about who he was genetically, which only added to his sexual frustration. By stating no one would have him for a sweetheart because he was Korean, Nettie Candler only made Yun’s sensitive situation far worse. Not only was Yun close to the Candlers, but he commented regularly in his journals about how beautiful the white women were, so one can imagine how deeply that comment hurt him. Things did change for Yun when he met Tommie, a white women that had “genuine affection for him that transcended race, even if it ran into the social class barriers that defined life in Oxford.” Yun stated in his journal “I was surprised at my own indifference to the girl. I couldn’t possibly persuade myself to love her”. It was almost as if from the beginning he thought there was too great of a-racial-cultural gap between them for anything to work.
Yun gave a great example of how racism was during the late 19th century. in 1892, a boy named M.T. Cleckley was to be dismissed from Emory due to association with paid sex workers in African American neighborhoods. Besides Yun’s hatred of how this event was handled, it is an interesting example of how strict Emory’s policies were at the time. It was apparent to me that the student was in trouble for having sex with the African American paid sex worker, rather than not getting permission to leave campus. When I think of racism up until the late 19th century, all I can think of is the unfair treatment of the Native Americans and African Americans. However, during the 20th and 21st centuries, one can see while immigration was increasing in numbers/diversity, the complexity in racism was increasing as well. Glazer and Moynihan once said “America is God’s Crucible, the great Melting Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming!…German and Frenchman, Irishman and Englishman, Jews and Russians – into the crucible with you all! God is making the American.” Disregarding the religious aspect of this quote, Glazer and Moynihan’s words describe how the composition of an “American” is a impacted by the vastly diverse group of people who constitute the United States.
The term “American” has a completely different meaning now than it did during Yun’s time at Emory. Despite the on going debate on the true definition of term, when I think of “American”, I think of an amalgamation of various subcultures, ethnicities, religions; creating a complex societal structure. However, Yun’s time period yields a far less complex societal structure with little diversity. I think this is an interesting thing to think about how things have changed so drastically since 1890.

1 thought on “Yun Ch’i-ho and America

  1. upluto: Did Yun always feel indifferent to Miss Tommie or was it only after the Candlers suggested she was “below” Yun in class that he no longer found her desirable? It’s hard to extricate class and race in this instance. Was she wrong for him because she was white and American and he was Korean? Or was she wrong for him because her class status was less than his (and that of other Emory students of the time)? Maybe it’s a little bit of both.

    You refer to a quote from Glazer and Moynihan, can you please include the citation of the work you are referring to here in case others would like to use it?

    Finally, you spend a little time talking about the meaning the term “American” and this, as an American Studies professor, is a topic I could talk about all day. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how “American” has being used in the presidential races. Who needs to show their birth certificate to prove “American-ness” and who doesn’t?

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