Illinois bus company faces civil rights inquiry over ad


Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
Illinois Attorney General
Lisa Madigan.

Mark Wilson/Getty

  • An Illinois bus company is being investigated after it
    posted what some have called a “racist” ad.
  • The state’s Attorney General is looking into whether
    the ad, which said ‘you won’t feel like you’re in China’ on its
    buses, violated the law.
  • The company’s initial apology criticized the University
    of Illinois’ enrollment choices.

The Illinois’ attorney general is investigating a transportation
company that promised patrons “you won’t feel like you’re in
China” on its buses.

Suburban Express, which provides bus services to University of
Illinois students, emailed out the controversial line as part of
an ad for its services last weekend. 

In response, Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a subpoena
for Suburban Express on Monday and will be looking at whether the
ad breached Illinois’ Human Rights Act. The act prohibits
services from being denied based on a number of factors,
including race and national origin.

“I am concerned that this advertisement may reflect that
Suburban Express is discriminating against potential customers,”
Madigan said in a statement. “Under the law, access to
transportation must not be impacted or based on a person’s race
or national origin. My office is investigating to determine
whether Suburban Express’ policies and practices violate the

China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported
the “racist” message along with a claim from a Chinese PhD
student that they will no longer use the service.

An initial apology from Suburban Express criticized the
University of Illinois’ enrollment of foreign students.

A second apology,
on Facebook
, admitted the ad was “grotesquely xenophobic” and
that the company admits all responsibility for its “inappropriate
and harmful” actions.

Representatives for the University of Illinois released a

that said the “offensive, bigoted, insulting”
messages of Surburban Express, which is not affiliated with the
university, “insulted members of our Chinese, Asian and
Asian American communities.” 

The statement also alleged that the bus company has a “long
history of taking advantage of students, staff and faculty.”


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