The front of the T-shirt sold at the AP World History grading event. / Courtesy of Hannah Kim
The College Board apologized for a "culturally and racially insensitive" T-shirt and some comments made at its Advanced Placement World History exam grading event last month.
On the front of the shirt are caricatures of Chinese politicians with the words, "Chinese Communist PARTY!!!" On the back is an image of Mao Zedong and text in what critics of the T-shirt call a "chop suey font."
"It hearkens to this history of racist imagery," said Hannah Kim, an assistant professor of history at the University of Delaware and one of the AP exam readers, in an interview with USA TODAY Network.
Kim was one of more than 1,000 college professors and high school teachers who gathered in Salt Lake City in mid-June for a week-long event to read and grade AP World History exams. It's common to have commemorative T-shirts at these grading events, and often these T-shirts are "innocuous," Kim said.
The World History T-shirt theme was prompted by one of this year's exam essay questions about Chinese peasants' relationship with the Chinese government during the Cultural Revolution, she said.
"If the exam question had been on something about the Holocaust or slave trade, you wouldn't have a T-shirt with that image in a comical way," Kim said.
The College Board and the Educational Testing Service, the organizations involved in administering and grading the exams, issued a statement online saying, "We are outraged by these intolerable findings and are dedicated to preventing any such activities in the future."
The statement said, "It is unacceptable that one of the AP exam readers created a T-shirt that mocked historical events that were the cause of great pain and suffering, and promulgated racist stereotypes that further marginalize a racial minority."
Kim said she and others had complained to test officials about the T-shirt when an image of the back of the shirt was previewed during the first day of the event.
When the T-shirts were distributed on the last day of grading, Kim said, she was "livid."
"I couldn't believe the poor, poor judgment of ETS in allowing this to go forward," she said.
The College Board and ETS apologized for comments made at the event.
AP exam reader Jennifer Fang, a University of Delaware graduate student, said the chief reader made a reference to the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 during his presentation.
In explaining how exam readers should follow the standards when grading, he showed the iconic photo of a man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square and said, "You don't want to be that guy," Fang recalled.
The chief reader then changed the slide to show the same image with rubber ducks replacing the tanks, Fang said.
The College Board and ETS said they would discipline anyone responsible but declined to provide additional information to USA TODAY Network.
The blog Angry Asian Man described the incident as "the nerd educator's version of a racist-theme frat party."
"Nothing like racial and cultural mockery and some good ol' orientalist fonts to commemorate a week of educational testing. Was any of this really necessary?" according to Angry Asian Man.
Another blog, Racism Review, said the event became "something of a playground for deeply rooted anti-Asian racism thinly veiled as 'light-hearted' humor."
Jeopardy! champion Arthur Chu tweeted about the incident, saying, "We're not just talking racist caricatures but also being flip about a major historical tragedy." He started the hashtag #APRacism.
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Read the original story: College Board apologizes over 'racially insensitive' T-shirt