What’s Wrong the Model Minority Myth, Briefly
Recently, there was an attack in Atlanta resulting in the death of numerous Asian Americans. Attacks like this against Asian Americans are not new. Like other minorities, Asian Americans have been attacked, mocked, and stereotyped for their race. Hate crimes against Asian Americans have been exacerbated as a result of anti-Asian sentiments echoed by former President Donald Trump and many others amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This perception of Asian Americans isn’t the only one that is often assigned in the United States, as Asian Americans often are portrayed as the ‘model minority’.
Historically, Asian Americans have the stereotype of being the model minority, which refers to the concept that Asian Americans are the ‘ideal’ minority and are examples of a minority success story. Examples of this in action are thoughts that Asian Americans are innately smart and represent a success of the ‘American dream’. This ideology may seem harmless, and maybe even praising, but is rather harmful and discriminatory. Stereotypes define the model minority concept and confine the complex Asian American experience into one-dimensional, discriminatory traits.
Furthermore, the model minority concept is often used to pit minorities against each other. The model minority ideals, in a way, ask “if this group of minorities can overcome hardships, why can’t others?”. This problematic thought process falsely suggests that disparities between racial groups are non-existent and minority experiences aren’t unique. It places certain minorities below others and ultimately dismisses racial and ethnic issues other minorities groups face.
So why is this important now? The attacks in Atlanta represent the commodification and sexual fetishization of Asian American lives, among other racial issues. The national spotlight on the rise in anti-Asian American sentiment and the increasing attacks against members of the Asian American community has given the opportunity to highlight other issues among how Asian Americans are perceived in the United States today. While the well-meaning, unintentional model minority ideology seems positive on the surface, it perpetuates stereotypes and is harmful to Asian Americans and other minorities alike.