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

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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