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How the Model Minority Myth Affects Black and Asian People

BY ALINA GAO



The racism Black people and Asian people experience has long been compared in society, so this article specifically references the racism Black people and Asian people face. For example, people incorrectly justify racism by using false comparisons like the model minority myth. The model minority myth is, as described by Wikipedia:


The model minority is a minority demographic (whether based on ethnicity, race or religion) whose members are perceived to achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the population average, thus serving as a reference group to outgroups.

The myth originated from the stereotypes that Asian people living in North America have very high expectations for their children. These usually include studying hard, going to a good university, and having a well paying job. These are the American standards of success that Asian people have adopted as their own and thus embodied. Asians are perceived to be successful because of our economic success trends that fit societal standards, yet we still face discrimination. The model minority myth leads to their successes being downplayed and their failures exaggerated, especially in familial, school, or career settings. The myth directly relates to Asian American stereotypes: good at math, quiet, studious. The stereotypes may seem “good,” but stereotypes are never completely “good.” Since they are seen as “good,” they are laughed off when someone says them. These stereotypes can create pressure and stress to be perfect, not just from your family but also people in your school and workplace. The myth also does not mention the countries in Asia that are not China, Japan, Korea, and India, or the struggles that Burmese, Uzbekistanian, Cambodian, and Bhutanese-Americans face as lesser known Asian ethnicities.


This myth has also been used to shame other race minorities. Many have used it as an excuse to justify the discrimination Black people face—"if Asian people made it, why didn’t you?" This mindset is wrong and broadly generalizes minority experiences. It’s not a competition to see whose life is "more oppressed." The discrimination Asian people and Black people experience are different, and it doesn’t matter which one’s “worse.” What matters is that we work towards a more accepting and diverse world for all.


The struggles one race experiences does not mean that another race is invalid. The idea that it’s not racism until it’s severe enough is the reason that many people ignore racism until it escalates into something fatal. However, if society reached that point, it would be too late. We should not compare the degree of racism each race faces. Just because one minority race statistically has higher success rates does not mean that another race of people will achieve similar success rates, because they do not experience the same things. All ethnicities should be viewed equally, and someone’s level of success should depend on the individual, not the stereotypes people have about their race.


People often feel as if the racism that Asian people experience is less real and impactful than the racism Black people experience. Generally, racism against Asian people tends to be more subtle and normalized than racism against Black people, but it exists nonetheless. Asian people are often caught in between white people and other minorities--not white enough to fit in with white people, but not racialized enough to be seen as a “real” minority. “My family’s need to survive sometimes outweighed their need to speak out”. We’re expected to succeed like because we "don’t face racism," and we’re expected to not talk about our experiences with racism because it’s "not as bad" as the racism Black people face. The truth is that all minorities deserve the same chances, safety, and support as any majority group.


The amount of racism Black people get correlates to how hard it’s fought against, and Asian racism tends to be more subtle so there’s generally less backlash against it. All racism should be fought against, because they are all valid and deserving of our attention. Perhaps with the influx of hate crimes against AAPI people, awareness will rise as well, and racism against both Asian people and Black people will be called out and fought against. Asian-Americans are tired of being ignored, and Black-Americans are tired of continuing to be racialized.


Commonly, I find that these races are pitted against each other. We have been compared by other people and ourselves. It’s almost like a competition sometimes to see which side is "more oppressed." Both sides experience racism, and instead of comparing the degree, we should support each other. Jubilee does a fascinating Youtube video on this topic called “Are We Allies? Black Americans vs Asian Americans | Middle Ground”. It highlights the relationship between the two minorities.


We should validate the racism that Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latinx, Native American and other ethnic minority communities experience, as well as encourage these minorities to support each other. We all know what it feels like to be discriminated against and should try to prevent it from happening.


The degree of discrimination one race faces does not invalidate the discrimination another race faces. We must support each other if we want a more equal world. Here are some ways you can stand in solidarity with other organizations:

  • calling out all racism against any race

  • dismantling stereotypes

  • not using racial slurs

  • supporting minority creators and business owners

  • donating to organizations that fight Black and AAPI racism and hate

  • signing petitions

  • using social media to spread awareness

  • educating yourself and others

  • trying your best to not make assumptions on/stereotype any race

  • validating and fighting racism against any race


We shouldn’t allow the model minority myth to drive us apart. The world is changing, and we have to fight together for it to become more accepting and diverse.



Resources to educate yourself with:


https://anti-asianviolenceresources.carrd.co/


https://www.aapicovid19.org/resources


https://stopaapihate.org/


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14WUuya94QE


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrb4CdrVRBU



Sources:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_minority


https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FTqhbTva7-


9jtWt8usO_P6pUCTZ7Tc4d_Vrxye_irXE/edit?ts=606a81a0


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14WUuya94QE


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXo2ub_nZFc










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