The University of British Columbia (UBC) has apologized for a document that sought to educate students on “yellow privilege” — benefits East Asians supposedly reap for being “both the oppressed and oppressors.” The six-paged document, which soon leaked on Reddit, was sent by an unidentified advisor in an email to students living in UBC’s Exchange residence on Nov. 26.
Image via Residence Life at UBCCiting academic research, the document builds its case for yellow privilege from the notion of model minority, which paints East Asians as “hardworking,” “smart” and “successful” due to “innate talents.” The document argues that this makes the group become oppressors, as in the cited case of several Korean students who distanced themselves from working-class and poor Southeast Asians. It also took note of Asian students justifying Black racism by blaming the victims.
Image via Residence Life at UBCAt the same time, East Asians are also oppressed, the document says, since they choose to be inactive in politics to keep their status as a model minority. Additionally, it “reflected their understanding that Asians are subordinate to Whites.” The document ends with a list of questions to consider, including some that ask students to contemplate on privileges they supposedly possess.
“This is so victim blaming,” wrote Reddit user throwaway978975, who exposed the document. “I can understand why he wants to raise awareness towards Asians being racist to Black people. But sending this out during a pandemic, when Asians are getting attacked for this virus, and Asian businesses are vandalized and closed down? Let the community have a chance to recover first.” The thread has since sparked a lengthy discussion and demands for an apology from UBC. Several officials released statements shortly after.
Sean Ryan, associate director of student housing, said the email was sent to 66 students. He noted that it went through an approval process, which has now been placed under review.
“We sincerely apologize for this communication and its impact, in particular to members of our Asian communities,” Ryan said, according to National Post. “We recognize the email and its content have even greater implications in the midst of a pandemic that has spurred a climate of increased negativity towards Asian communities.”
Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations, also apologized for the incident. “We are aware of the email sent to some student residents by a staff member. We recognize this communication has offended people in our community and we apologize. We will be communicating with our students about this in the days ahead,” Ramsey said, according to The Ubyssey.