The Model Minority Myth and Asian American Allyship

Disclaimer: The opinions stated in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Amidst a global pandemic that is disproportionately affecting African American communities, the recent murder of 46-year-old George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has incited protests all across the country. Institutionalized racism, it seems, remains alive and well in the United States.

Anti-Blackness, though it has many faces, is something I know all too well within the Asian community. So, this goes out to my fellow Asian Americans during this movement—those who refuse to see the problem and those who are at a loss for what to do.

The United States has created a narrative for Asian Americans—the Model Minority Myth. It’s this idea that Asian people are more intelligent, mild-mannered and disciplined than any other marginalized group—the idea that we are the “good” minority and the prime example of how to act in order to make it in this country. I grew up listening to my family members falling into this trap, speaking ill of Black people, dehumanizing them and telling me they were lazy, poor and uneducated. I was told that these protests were not cries for justice but acts of senseless violence.

Over the years, I have come to learn that we were wrong. I have come to learn that we cannot seek to regulate the way Black people grieve for their collective losses, and I have come to learn that the model minority myth is exactly that—a myth. People of color have always held lesser socioeconomic positions in American society, Asian Americans included and African Americans especially. No matter how often we insist that we’ll make it if we are just well-behaved and hardworking, the system continues to fail us.

Quoted in an article by NPR, UC Irvine professor Claire Jean Kim states, “Asians have been barred from entering the U.S. and gaining citizenship and have been sent to incarceration camps, […] but all that is different than the segregation, police brutality and discrimination that African-Americans have endured.” Asian Americans have simultaneously been granted a certain privilege in our existence over our African American peers and a glaringly false sense of security in a predominately white society.

It’s a privilege that I know many of us have failed to recognize, myself included, in this fight for justice. We appropriate and engage in Black culture, but we fail to protect the people who created it. Just like we sat idly by as Trayvon, Michael, Philando, Sandra and countless others lost their lives to anti-Blackness, many of us continue to sit idly by as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others are murdered at the hands of the institution. We have forgotten that it was the Civil Rights Movement that paved the way for our lives in this country—we condemn acts of protest and riots but fail to understand that without them, President Johnson would not have passed the Immigration Act of 1965. I would not be here if it weren’t for the Black people that bore this immense burden so that my family could come to this county and have the opportunity for a better life.

And yet, here we are. We have turned our backs on our Black brothers and sisters when they need us most. Why do we blindly continue to insist that this system works when it has continuously failed all of us?

So, despite a childhood of anti-Black sentiments, this is a call to action. As Asian Americans, we can no longer sit on the sidelines while innocent Black lives continue to be brutalized by those in power. These are ideas that are generations-old, but dismantling this network of institutionalized power is a responsibility that falls onto all of us. There is immense power in this privilege we have, but only if we use it to incite change.

Let us reflect, donate and do what we can in this fight for justice.

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