Students living in a residence of the University of British Columbia were sent a Google document on the "privilege" which East Asian students allegedly hold over African Americans and "working class and poor southeast Asians." The document, compiled by a UBC Residence Advisor, referred to Asians' alleged higher status as "yellow privilege."
The document defines "yellow privilege" as the "very real advantages to East Asians such as protections under the criminal law." To justify this characterization, the document cites an academic paper written in 2016 by a Berkeley law student named Stephen Chang, who was the editor-in-chief of the Asian American Law Journal and an editor of the California Law Review.
According to Chang, "Asian-American groups must recognize yellow privilege in order to more honestly participate in a larger community of social justice by recognizing our own internal privileges, while also recognizing the limits of our privilege in a white-dominated society." His argument has gained little attention since its publication.
The paper includes citations on works from critical race theorists and has a section on intersectionality. "It is important to note that systems of privilege do not act in isolation and that intersectionality of systems of privilege is an important concept in these analyses," the paper reads.
The document continues by describing Asian-Americans as "model minorities" who are "oppressors" of other racial groups, alleging that Korean-Americans "use their merchant status to distance themselves from working-class and poor southeast Asians" and that Asian students "justified the racism experienced by African Americans by blaming the victims."
The document then goes on to explain how Asians, as "model minorities," are also oppressed. The article states that "model minorities" are discouraged from getting involved in politics and "[although] Asian-identified students did not engage in political activism, their response to racism revealed a politics of accommodation that reflected their understanding that Asians are subordinate to whites."
It is unclear what evidence there is that Asian students are uninvolved in political activism or how Asians understand themselves to be supposedly "subordinate to whites."
The document cites a number of resources that students who concerned about "yellow privilege" can access to learn more. These include the university's Equity and Inclusion Office, and a student organization called Colour Connected Against Racism, the latter of which shared an article to their Facebook page in 2018 titled "140 Alphabetically-listed Zionist Crimes Expose Appalling Western Complicity and Hypocrisy."
That article includes conspiracy theories accusing Zionists of collaborating with the Nazis, being complicit in the Holocaust, committing the 9/11 attacks in cahoots with the US government, and of being complicit in both waging and covering up various other genocides around the globe. It further described the mainstream media as "Zionist-subverted" and claimed that the "Zionist-perverted" United States has murdered 1.5 billion people worldwide as a result of the alleged "perversion." The group later acknowledged the article as antisemitic and apologized.
The document attracted the attention of the UBC subreddit, with users expressing outrage over the characterizations and language within. "Isn't the term 'yellow' racist? Like calling Asians oriental? Or describing First Nations as red?" One student wrote.
Georgia Yee, the VP Academic and University Affairs of the school's student union, also commented on the Reddit post saying "[this] is completely unacceptable to see. I'm a little horrified to see this, both as a former RA and in my current role."
Emmet Mark, a politically active Chinese-Canadian student at UBC, told The Post Millennial that he would "describe this characterization as prejudiced and unhelpful."
"Asian Canadians, particularly in Greater Vancouver, are facing an unprecedented spike in hate-crimes due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. I would be less concerned about 'Yellow Privilege,' and instead be mindful of the resurgence of 'Yellow Peril,'" Mark said, referring to the 878% rise in hate crimes towards Asians since the start of the pandemic in Vancouver alone.
"Too often, it seems as though the 'woke' crowd is intent on dominating and perpetuating discussions on racial issues when it fits their divisive agenda, to the detriment of actual racial minority perspectives."
"To be frank, Asian Canadian community groups I've worked with, don't want to be railroaded into this divisive agenda which categorizes various groups based on preconceived notions and diminishes individual self-value."
Commenting on the fact that this document came from a UBC residence advisor, Mark said "UBC Residence Life resources are clearly being used by this Residence Advisor to push an ideological agenda—it is not the place of student-funded groups to unnecessarily pursue divisive, controversial, stances and pit students against one another."
UBC responded to The Post Millennial's request for comment by suggesting that the document, while sent out in good faith, could be viewed as offensive and apologized for it.
"We are aware of the email sent to some student residents by an RA," said Matthew Ramsay, Director of University Affairs at UBC Media Relations. "The goal of the email was to promote healthy discussion among those residents. We recognize this communication has offended some in our community and we apologize. We will be communicating with our students about this in the days ahead."
UBC did not identify which residence advisor sent out the document and did not specify whether the material was officially approved by UBC Residence Life.
UBC Residence Life did not respond to our request for comment.
Correction: A previous version of this article falsely attributed a quote from Georgia Yee, the VP Academic and University Affairs (VPAUA) for the UBC Alma Mater Society, to a previous VPAUA. The article has been corrected to account for this error.