Letter to the Editor: Suburban Express doesn’t know how to apologize


By Xuanie Wang

Suburban Express does not know how to properly apologize because it never intended to.

Suburban Express, a shuttle bus service that serves the University of Illinois community, recently sent out a “Welcome to December!” email to its customers with Christmas Break Bus Schedules and a list of bullet pointed details attached, including the following:

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“Passengers like you. You won’t feel like you’re in China when you’re on our buses.”

Whether this was intended to be a selling point to make you feel like you are in America, surrounded by Americans (not to get into the finer points of Suburban Express’s idea of who would belong to the American race) when you are on their buses (because they don’t serve Chinese international students?), or whether this was intended to be a threat against Chinese international students that riding Suburban Express would be an experience that constantly reminds them that they are unwelcome in someone else’s county, this line is offensive and threatening. I can understand why this upsets the Chinese student community at the University.

Suburban Express responded with the one page half-assed apology that they “made the remark based on the fact that (their) competitor mostly handles Chinese international students,” that this remark was not intended to be an offensive one. They seemed bemused that the remark was interpreted as “a slap in the face of all non-Caucasians.” Well, that was the supposedly “apologetic” part of the “apology,” the rest of the page was filled with the innocent victimized rant that Illinois, a state school “funded by taxpayers” and “built on land granted by the people of the State of Illinois,” due to bad management, now has to “sell … to the highest foreign bidder.”

I do not wish to get into the debate whether the University made the right strategic decision to admit more international students, or whether nearly 20 percent of Illinois students are natives Chinese was a good phenomenon. I am just deeply offended by the “apology” offered by Suburban.

I have seen apologies staged as a damage-control performance, a demand for forgiveness disguised as an apology, and very rarely, an acknowledgement of the harm done to the harmed party. The Suburban Express’s apology was none of the above: it was a declaration that it has done nothing wrong, the fault was all with the university that has made the campus un-American.

I applaud Suburban Express’s courage for defending the American-ness of the University (or should I say, the whiteness?) and their audacity to indicate that they are willing to exclude customers based on their national origin so that “passengers like you” could enjoy an authentic American experience to ride a shuttle bus. Although it might just be a little bit more American to hitchhike a ride — it is the Midwest, after all.

Suburban Express ended its apology with a snarky remark that “in any event, (they) did not intend to offend half the planet.”

Well, only 18.3 percent of the world population is Chinese, according to Wikipedia. If Suburban Express wished to apologize, they should have done it properly; if it did not intend to and wished to be sarcastic and provoking, they need to get the facts straight.

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