TCHS Rampage

Temple City High School


September 5, 2017

A cliché put out of context

We’ve all heard the stereotypes. Jokes about how because we’re Asians we must get As in school, or how as a group we’re somehow categorized as more hardworking than others because of our culture. We hear things similar to “you’re Asian, so you must be smart.” But is it true? I’m afraid this isn’t necessarily a truth, but rather a myth: the model minority myth.
The term model minority describes any particular group that is perceived to be more successful due to higher income, with a strong emphasis on education and stable families. The term was first mentioned in a 1966 New York Times article by sociologist William Petersen, and stuck around in other articles trying to argue that other minorities could become successful too if they had an emphasis on hard work and education similar to Asian people.
Now it’s worth noting that the term came about around the same time as the civil rights movement around the 1960s and was used frequently in order to try and dismantle the activism of non-Asian people of color.
The myth was used as a mere tool to try and shut down Africans and Latino American calls for social, economic and political equality, to make it seem as if these groups are as complaining instead of studying and working as hard as Asian Americans in order to become successful in the first place. They failed to realize that the same opportunities do not come easily to everyone.
But such comparisons are blatantly ignorant and obviously biased in that they never take into account the many different obstacles and experiences that these communities face that Asian Americans do not face in their lives themselves.
As discussed in the The New Jim Crow written by legal scholar Michelle Alexander, one example would be how African Americans and Latino Americans who are constantly labeled in the media as lazy thugs, gangsters and welfare queens, actually face the harsh realities that most Asian-Americans don’t face like police brutality and housing discrimination as a result of the War on Drugs, which refers to the U.S. government’s campaign of prohibition of drugs with the aim of reducing illegal drug trade, but in reality targeted these disenfranchised communities, and ended up dividing the families instead.
Furthermore, such a myth is also detrimental to Asian Americans by grouping all Asians together and ignoring the differences between them. It must be understood that even though there is a group of highly successful Asian Americans, they are not all one and the same.
As a matter of fact, refugees like the Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laos Americans share that same work ethic and emphasis on education, but may not be as successful as say Chinese, Japanese or Indian Americans. This is due to the fact that immigration policies are selective in allowing who they let in, choosing highly skilled individuals as compared to the refugees allowed in who have had a lack of higher education and opportunities due to the conflicts of their home country.
That is to say, the people being perceived and portrayed as successful really just represent a smaller portion of the community, and cannot be used as depictions of all Asian Americans.
With that said, assuming that the myth is true for all Asians is dangerous in that it overlooks communities that are in need of services when it comes to language, education, and even health care. In fact, such a high standard for a diverse community discourages those individuals from seeking help and services because they fear what others will think about them. That is why as Asian Americans, we need to understand the way in which our communities are perceived and how this perception has been used not only against other minorities but also against Asians as well.

About the Author

Alex Nguyen



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