3 Lessons I’ve Learned About Modern Racism from Idaho State University’s Bad Behavior Towards My Husband


Some of life’s learning experiences really hurt.

For me, the most painful one I’ve ever had is witnessing the horrendous damage that Idaho State University and its clinical psychology PhD program inflicted upon my husband Jun Yu.

I also believe it has been the most important educational experience of my life.

While I wouldn’t wish what happened to Jun on anyone, it has offered me a unique perspective into what modern racism and discrimination really looks like.

Here are 3 lessons I’ve learned about modern racism from Idaho State University’s bad behavior towards my husband:

#1: Modern racism is NOT obvious and blatant

Nobody ever called my husband a “chink” or uttered other blatant racial slurs against him in the course of his time at Idaho State University. But that doesn’t mean there’s no racism at work. (See also my recent post Behind ISU’s Blatant Violations of Professional Standards Are Shadows of Discrimination Against Jun Yu)

America’s discrimination laws have been on the books since the 1960’s, putting all Americans on notice that they’ll be in deep trouble for using overtly racist language. So nowadays, people who want to do something motivated by racism (which might even be racism they’re not aware of, aka aversive racism) will hide their intentions. They’ll usually fabricate seemingly reasonable explanations, even when they might totally contradict the facts in the case.

For example, consider the following about my husband’s case, as reported in this story about Jun Yu v. Idaho State University by AsAm News:

The school’s official reasoning for terminating Yu’s doctorate was “unsatisfactory progress.” However, as Dr. Chavez-Korell noted–“The assigned grades and formal evaluations across semesters are inconsistent with unsatisfactory progress.”

#2: You can still be racist even if you work in a field that embraces diversity and advocates against racism and discrimination

If there was ever a field that cared about diversity, it’s professional psychology.

The American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code has three standards regarding diversity and discrimination – 3.01 Unfair Discrimination, 3.02 Sexual Harassment, and 3.03 Other Harassment (which says psychologists should not harass or demean others based on factors including “age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language or socioeconomic status.”).

APA Accreditation – the body that accredits all professional psychology programs, including the ISU program — has an entire domain devoted to diversity (Domain D), summarized as, “The program recognizes the importance of cultural and individual differences and diversity in the training of psychologists.”

While in ISU’s clinical psychology PhD program, my husband spent an entire semester studying diversity, and the class covered topics on racism, discrimination and prejudice. One of his textbooks was Overcoming Our Racism by Derald Wing Sue, which actually begins with the words, “Are you a racist?… Are you willing to look at yourself, to examine your assumptions, your attitudes, your conscious and unconscious behavior, the privileges you have enjoyed as a White person, and the way you have treated people of color, even with the best of intentions?”

Yet the program behaved in racist ways towards my husband, Jun Yu.

The aversive racism expert for Jun’s case wrote a report detailing more than 22 specific examples of aversive racism by the ISU faculty towards Jun, concluding:

… it is hard to imagine a situation that more strongly demonstrates all of the hallmarks that are typically present when aversive racism is occurring, which strongly suggests that the behavior of the ISU Psychology department was influenced by Mr. Yu’s race and international status. [emphasis added]

It just goes to show that working in a field that purportedly promotes diversity is not a “get-out-of-being-a-racist-free-card” by any means.

#3: Modern racism can be devastating, destroying your entire life and even your dreams

Just because modern racism is subtle doesn’t mean it can’t ruin your life. As we have written before:

It took Jun 5 years of hard work to earn the degree. But it only took the university an arbitrary decision to deny it. ISU has robbed Jun of his past achievements. They have stolen his dream of becoming a clinical psychologist. They have ruined his career and future.

Not surprisingly, the cultural competency expert wrote for Jun’s case, “It is my opinion that the dismissal of Mr. Yu from ISU’s Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program was excessive…, unjustified, and objectively unreasonable.”

There’s a Chinese saying: “When things go to an extreme, they will reverse course” (wùjíbìfǎn, 物极必反). I think it holds true for Jun’s case too.

Despite all of the devastation in our lives, we believe in #JusticeForJun. We believe that, as long as we don’t give up, justice will prevail.

My husband Jun Yu is fighting against injustice in higher education. ISU ruined his 5 yrs of education & future, and denied him the PhD he rightfully earned. Learn more and support his cause at Generosity.com. #JusticeForJun

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7 Replies to “3 Lessons I’ve Learned About Modern Racism from Idaho State University’s Bad Behavior Towards My Husband”

  1. Although I am not as active as before on this blog, I still read and come here to see how things are going. I am deeply sorry for what you guys are going through. For as long as I studied history I figured out that racism and hatred never dies. It gets coated and far more difficult to prove and show. As you said, it’s all covert and is denied by people that it is happening. Keep fighting and I will keep you in my thoughts.

    For those that are curious about racism and how it is done today, check out Fresh off the Boat by Eddie Huang (more grittier and not like TV show) and also Waking up White by Debby Irving.

  2. Jocelyn,

    I wish you and John all the best for taking this rough path with perseverance and determination.

    It’s so bad that they tried to manipulate their terms and conditions so as to block John’s career. I’m also glad that you’re making this public so that people can be aware of what’s going on.

    You can also let this know in Chinese media outlets so that future Chinese will shun away Idaho state university. Either bad or good, it wouldn’t hurt future Chinese students to drop ISU from their list of universities application.

    There is no overt discrimination in modern days. There’s only microaggression.

    Women in Science also have an experience of microaggression from male-dominated STEM fields. It’s horrible, it’s disgusting, it’s sub-human after all.

    Now look at the recent news from Stanford University. Olympic aspiring, Brock Turner raped an unconscious girl he met at the party. What is the sentence he’s got?

    6 months of jail time which is further reduced to 3 months.

    What is his parents say? His father said “A steep price for a 20-minute of action”

    You go figure who is the Judge?


    White males will try to wield power by every means even if they have to dehumanize their own kind, White women.

  3. 1. i hope your husband will succeed in his fighting. i think it is going to be a very long process as IDS will probably drag it out for years.
    2. yes, racism is everywhere and some are very subtle. e.g. sometimes when i go through the grocery line, the cashier would greet the customer (the one in front of me ) with smile and say how are you and say thank you after the customer pays.
    when the cashier sees me, no greeting, no smile. after i pay, instead of saying thank you, he/she says there you go. sometimes i feel like saying i am not going anywhere until you say thank you, like you did with the customer before me. but then, people with prejudice would add additional ammunition to their attitude, saying that i am rude and blah blah blah, you know what i mean.
    3. it also reminds me what my sister in law told me about what happened when she was in university in the 1970s. yes i am THAT OLD !!! she said there was a chinese girle who scored As in all her subjects except this one course, she only got a C. she complaint to the Dept head and the Dept head stood by the professor’s decision. this chinese girl later found out that NO chinese got more than a C in this course. my sister in law said words spread out amongst chinese NOT to take course with this professor as they thought the professor was racist and i thought and still think they are right.

  4. With regard to the first thing, actually wrg especially to Asians, often racism is very overt as well as implicit. I think the racism and bigotry faced by blacks, Hispanics, etc are mostly implicit because there is such a social taboo and social stigma against expressions of such kinds of racism. With Asians there is no pressure against. It is very common and even encouraged by both left and right political leaning people, black and white etc to behave in racist ways towards Asians.

    The recent Academy Awards ceremony was a great example of this overt anti-Asian racism. While speaking against anti-black “racism” in hollywood, Chris Rock didn’t hesitate to make blatant racist jokes against Asians who are far more discriminated against than blacks in the film and TV industry. Furthermore, Sasha Baron-Cohen added to the anti-Asian racism with his jokes against Asian men. Imagine if an Asian had made jokes belittling the intelligence of blacks or the alleged moral inferiority of Jews on national TV, for example. How massive would be the outrage against that Asian and Asians in general? There is social pressure against some forms of overt racism and yet from the same sources there is often encouragement for other forms.

  5. I agree that modern racism comes in many forms, not just the obvious ones (I still encountered these latter forms of racism back home, but other kinds are quite prevalent too).

    Hope you’ll win this case both for the personal damage they have done to your husband as well as the more general one of discriminating against students who aren’t US-citizens.

  6. One of the lessons of your case is: There will always be racism, so sometimes you have to stand up and fight for yourself and for those who follow you. You and Jun have been courageous and determined, and you have suffered for it. I wish you a successful conclusion to your case.

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