‘Model minority’ has been a term that has floated around sparsely over the past few years but has come back full force during the recent surge of hate crimes against Asians. It’s been a year of racist attacks and xenophobic rhetoric amid the pandemic, but the sad part about it is that racism against Asians has always existed.
Although you may have just recently heard of the model minority myth, the idea began decades ago when politicians glorified Asians as hardworking and law-abiding citizens who never complained and kept to themselves. Members of the Asian community quickly became the politically motivated and textbook example of a model citizen.
Besides the blatant and violent hate crimes that continue to occur during the pandemic, racism against Asians might not always be easily recognizable. And this is where the ‘model minority’ term becomes apparent. Many members of the Asian community feel as if they need to prove to others that we experience racism. But why is that even an issue? Why does a whole community feel the need to prove that others are being racist to them? The prejudice towards other minority communities is often acknowledged, but there’s a belief that Asians don’t experience racism because we are associated with positive stereotypes. Racial violence towards us is being overlooked and disregarded because of the assumption that Asians have privilege, are wealthy and educated, and that racist comments are considered positive praise. We are labelled as “hardworking,” “successful” and “good at math.”
The model minority myth doesn’t only harm the Asian community but also other ethnic minorities. The belief is that if Asians can become successful through hard work, then so can others if they tried hard enough. Except this concept is flawed beyond words. Racism against other minority groups cannot be overcome simply by good education and strong family values. Our success as Asians shouldn’t be held as a goal that other minority groups should strive for.
There are also people, including some Asians, who don’t think the model minority myth is all that bad. After all, why would being labelled as part of the successful and wealthy group be a bad thing? Except that there should not be a hierarchy amongst minority groups. If you’re Asian yourself, I encourage you to check your own biases. It’s our responsibility to call out any form of racism, not just towards our community, but for others too. It takes all of us to fight against racism, and the model minority myth diverts us from uniting with others to fight against racial injustice. When you understand your own biases, you’ll then be able to help others around you to dismantle this model minority myth too.