The Truth Behind the Model Minority Myth

Volare | July 2021 Newsletter

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
– Nelson Mandela

Disclaimer: This is the second part out of three on this series of anti-Asian racism in the U.S. All views and opinions expressed in this series are solely those of the authors and may contain sensitive topics. If you feel triggered and need to stop reading, please do and if possible, let us know. In addition, we realize there are many events that has and continue to shape Asian American history and anti-Asian racism which we may not be able to cover all. We acknowledge they happen and should not be ignored.

In 1966, the term model minority was first coined by William Petersen, who wrote a New York Times article that attributed Japanese American success to their strong work ethnic, closeness to family ties, and respect for local authorities. It was later perceived as a way to embody Asian immigrants and Pacific Islanders overall, highlighting how they overcame hardships and reaching a socioeconomic level that is supposedly seen as an inspiration for others who want to achieve higher income levels, educational levels, and attain a higher class status. 

However, this stereotype has become a way to enforce White supremacy and discredit the struggles that other communities face. When Asian immigrants exhibit successful results, it is used as a way to pit them against other racialized groups, where by flaunting their success, the government can deny traces of racism and suppress any claims of oppression from either groups.

The myth also fails to recognize the reality of those within the model minority themselves, where Asian populations that experience poverty or social dislocation are met with suspicion and distrust from other groups because of their proximity to the dominant culture. Under that pretense, these communities lack the care and attention they need to survive and become further displaced within society by both the dominant culture and racialized groups. 

Hate Crimes in the 21st Century

The rise of alarming statistics was an unfortunate trend that manifested itself in the year 2020. As the year developed the news was packed with reports of rising COVID cases, mounting testimonies on police brutality against the black community, and violence against Asians. While COVID and Black Lives Matter dominated the headlines for most of 2020, the “end AAPI hate movement” took center stage as the year hit its twilight and began to transition into 2021. 

Asian hate crimes rose in 2020, in large part due to a xenophobic shift in US political rhetoric driven by the Coronavirus. COVID-19’s Chinese origins led some US politicians, most notably President Donald Trump, to call the new affliction the, “China Virus.” These references, mixed with an overall atmosphere of ignorance among the American public led to the widely inaccurate perception that Asian Americans were in some way more likely to spread COVID-19 to their peers than any other member of the general public. 

In 2020 overall hate crimes fell 6% according to the Center for Hate and extremism. However hate crimes involving Asians rose 145%. In New York City, Anti Asian hate rose a staggering 833% from 2019 to 2020, many of those crimes centering on older and in many cases elderly individuals. Yet, while most of these hate crimes were occurring, few found their way into the limelight. Back in March of 2020, when the virus first made a major impact on American shores, Asian hate began its rise across the country. While many incidents made headlines in those early days, subsequent incidents were put on the backburner as The US struggle to contain the pandemic and the meteoric rise of the black lives matter movement took center stage. It wasn’t until late 2020, early 2021 as vaccine efficacy made the pandemic more manageable, and BLM began to cool down, that the rise in Asian hate crimes got the attention it deserved. 

At the end, check in on your AAPI friends and family, support local Asian American-owned small businesses, and do not stay silent. If you want to explore this topic more, feel free to check out the resources below:

Mental health support:

The Crisisline: 1-800-373-TALK

∙ For Asian Languages: 1-877-990-8585

Crisis text line: Text “HOME” to 741741

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

Asian Mental Health Collective

They offer a blog and YouTube channel that talks about mental health as well as a comment thread of therapists willing to provide reduced/free sessions.

∙ Subtle Asian Mental Health

It’s a Facebook group that’s a part of the Asian Mental Health Collective, where they offer free 1:1 listening sessions and let people share their experiences and thoughts anonymously.

Lai Chien Therapy

They offer Asian American pay-as-you-wish group therapy.

Reporting hate crimes:

Stop AAPI Hate

Feed to follow:

∙ @angryasianfeminist

∙ @michellekimkim

∙ @seoulcialite

∙ @kimsaira

∙ @intersectional_abc

∙ @weija

Organizations to support:

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

Unapologetically Asian

Hate Is A Virus

Next Shark

Asian American Collective

Gold House

Books to read:

∙ Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

∙ The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

∙ Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner

∙ The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Le Thi Diem Thúy

∙ Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories by Hisaye Yamamoto

∙ Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics by Lisa Lowe

∙ America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan

∙ Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

∙ If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar

∙ The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

∙ The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui

Read more:

What is the Model Minority Myth

Debunking the Model Minority Myth

Published by Volare

Career Coaching for International Students

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