As an Asian-American myself, I like to attribute most of our ethnicity’s success to the hard work we put in. But I’ve come to realize that a narrow mindset is what’s feeding into the dangerous model minority myth. And no, as appealing as the term “model minority” might seem, it is not a positive thing for anyone — not even Asian Americans themselves.
Model minority sets up Asian-Americans on a pedestal above all ethnic minorities by pointing out that the success of our race proves the American Dream is achievable for everyone, as long as they work hard enough. Although diligence can result in rewards to some extent, model minority “downplays racism and dismisses claims of white privilege.”
Additionally, using the term to describe all Asian-Americans isn’t representative since it covers such a vast, diverse range of people. It looks past certain races such as the Bhutanese-Americans who have “far higher rates of poverty than other Asian populations,” according to NPR.
Another factor that contributes to painting a nicer reputation for Asian-American was the cautiousness of immigration officers when selecting, for the most part, only well-educated Asian immigrants. So it’s clear why many would assume Asian-Americans as a whole have been doing well since we’re being represented by the few successful immigrants.
But how does the supposed success of one race negatively affect another?
By crediting Asian American’s success solely on their hard work, it makes people question why African-Americans aren’t doing as well. However, while “Asians have faced various forms of discrimination” it’s not the same as “the systematic dehumanization that black people have faced during slavery and continue to face today,” according to NPR.
And even when African Americans aren’t suffering from the threats of others, they’re sometimes also suffering from themselves too through stereotype threat which is the anxiety from negative stereotypes that can weaken performance.
Therefore, we can’t blindly accept what we hear. If you are an ally, you need to recognize how these flawed preconceived notions can affect others and not fall into the trap of what xenophobics want — competition between minorities. We must participate and speak up during the Black Lives Movement to fight together for and with African Americans and eventually, for all.