By Laura Haefeli

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — During a meeting about systemic racism, Director of the Department of Health Services, Dr. Peter Beilenson, used a racist term to describe Asian Americans.

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors declared racism a public health crisis during the in-person meeting Tuesday. While supporting the unanimous vote, Dr. Beilenson referred to Asians as “yellow folks.”

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“It’s a crucial thing we need to be doing to address the issues of the African American and brown and yellow folks in our country as well as the white folks,” Dr. Belienson said during the meeting.

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Belienson is now apologizing for what he says was a mistake.

“In my 30-year career in public health, I’ve never had an issue like this before,” Beilenson said. “I very much apologize for that and will certainly use Asian Pacific Islander in the future.”

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We reached out to Timothy Fong, Professor of Ethnic Studies at Sacramento State, who says the term is racist.

“Historically the image of Asian Americans as yellow has been very derogatory,” Fong said. “It goes back to scientific racism and trying to define different people in different ways, whether it be skin color. It’s clearly an arbitrary and made-up term.”

Professor Fong says he expects Dr. Beilenson to learn from his mistake.

“There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes. I think there’s a lot wrong with not admitting your mistakes or not even understanding you made a mistake,” Fong said.

CBS13 also reached out to APAPA, an Asian American Non Profit organization in Sacramento. The president of APAPA condemned the term and says more needs to be done to ensure cultural competency in the workforce.

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