What is the model minority myth?
The model minority myth is an idea that Asian Americans naturally reach academic success and thrive in achieving stable careers by being hardworking. In addition, Asian Americans are considered to be more law-abiding citizens who accept and follow the law, even racially discriminatory ones, thus they are perceived as less of a “threat” to White Americans. It perpetrates essentially all common stereotypes about Asians. It paints them as hard workers and immigrants who are capable of achieving the American dream by not rocking the boat. Consequently, they have been used as a model for other minorities.
The origins of the model minority myth:
The stereotype that Asians are smart and compliant rose in the 1950’s and persists today as portrayed in several popular movies. Before then, the Westerners saw Asians as more of a threat and referred to them as the “Yellow Peril.” Then, in World War 2, American politicians began realizing that being a racist country was bad publicity. Asian Americans were the closest solution to this. Congress began repealing laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act. As a consequence, the Asian population in America grew, many were educated and able to enter the middle class. Additionally, because America was trying to prove they were not a racist country, middle class schools, neighborhoods and professions were open to Asians.
The harm of the model minority myth:
The model minority myth not only harms Asians but other minorities as well. To start off, the myth generalizes all Asians to have the same traits and cultures, completely overlooking the fact that Asians are made up of diverse people. It also sets this standard for Asian Americans which they now feel forced to meet. As a result, those same Asian Americans tend to be more quiet about their struggles as well as internalizing these expectations for themselves. People who subscribe to this myth dispel empathy or attention to issues that Asian Americans face by praising Asians for keeping their heads down and being submissive. Furthermore, because the model minority myth is often utilized by racists to justify their racism, it is frequently used as a way to divide Black Americans and Asians. This strategy is commonly used by White conservative politicians. They start off by praising Asian Americans’ “work ethic”, only to finish by comparing them to Black Americans. These people will claim that Asian American success is evidence that racism in America does not exist and they’ll take it a step further by questioning why Black Americans are not thriving in this society. They act as if hundreds of years of enslavement followed by decades of oppression can all be solved by being hardworking.
How we can dismantle this myth in the future:
As a society, we can acknowledge the issues Asian Americans have to deal with due to their race. We have to stop ignoring the struggles Asian Americans undergo and encourage them to speak up about such things instead of pressuring them to stay quiet. Leaders should recognize differences among communities and attempt to meet those diverse needs rather than attempting to have all communities fit a model that serves their own agenda. Lastly, everyone who’s desperate to help needs to realize that pitting minorities against each other does not solve anything and is actually incredibly inefficient. All minorities have a common enemy and that is the racism present in America; therefore, everyone should work together and fight this.