Two students at Edinburgh University are being accused of wearing racist “yellow-face” makeup during a Chinese New Year-themed party last February.
The picture which has been circulating online features two Caucasian male students wearing chopsticks costumes, with Chinese characters printed on cardboard around their neck that reads: “hi,” “new year,” “suck my chopsticks,” and “I love hockey.” They also allegedly wore yellow face paint.
President of the Edinburgh University Hong Kong International Society, Robyn Ma, described what the male students did as an incident of “racial discrimination and white privilege,” according to The Tab.
“The Chinese New Year themed party was not a celebration of the New Year. It was a racist-themed party and a flagrant act of disrespect towards Chinese culture,” Ma told The Tab. “Instead of celebrating this tradition, they were celebrating white privilege. Wearing “yellow face” and carrying signs with texts mocking our culture is incredibly offensive. This is not a celebration of our culture at all.”
“I’d like to believe that this wasn’t an intentional act of racial discrimination, but rather of ignorance,” she added. “What happened is not a reflection of all students at Edinburgh but I believe it is important to highlight the fact that these instances of white privilege continue to exist and are unacceptable.”
The Chinese New Year-themed flat party took place in February, with around 75 people attending, the report said. Days before the event, organizers of the party took to Facebook and warned guests that there would be “zero tolerance for people taking the piss with the theme” and that “the last thing we want is to cause offense.”
The Facebook post also suggested possiblecolor schemes they could wear such as red and gold, or costumes like animals including pigs, tigers, rabbits and dragons.
One of the men in the picture, whose identity was not revealed, came forward and spoke to The Tab in defense of their costume during the party.
“It is extremely upsetting to both of us how these costumes have come across following the party given our genuine intention was to dress up as chopsticks,” he said. “Whilst we understand and sincerely apologize for any offense caused by these photos, we would like to make it very clear that any allegations of us intending to dress as anything else are a total misrepresentation of us as individuals and of our intentions at that party.”
Another attendee of the party also came forward to the defense of the men in the picture and told The Tab: “The party was themed for Chinese New Year, and in this context two people came together dressed as two chopsticks. They put cardboard boxes around their bodies and on their heads, and put beige paint on their exposed skin.”
“In some of the photos taken at the end of the night, the lighting and faded paint had lightened the beige color of the paint on their skin. When they and the hosts realized that the photos had caused offense they immediately took them off Facebook,” the man continued.
“In no way was the outfit meant to be ‘yellow-face’. I am confident that no one who saw the costumes in person considered that it was.”
There is no official word yet from the university, but a spokesperson said in a statement: “We’re committed to providing an environment in which all members of the University community treat each other with dignity and respect and our Code of Student Conduct sets out expectations of behavior.”
Images via The Tab