Model minority myth is harmful toward Asian Americans

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The model minority myth only encourages casual racism against Asian Americans and belittles the racism they face in life. 

The controversy around describing Asian Americans as a model minority has existed long before this article, but not many people know why it is a myth and why it is harmful.

In an article by Philip Kasinitz, the sociologist shares that the concept of the “model minority” is based on a 1966 finding by sociologist William Petersen, in which he wrote that the Japanese American way of life allowed them to “overcome the discrimination and achieve a measure of success in the United States.” 

According to Kasinitz, the myth is derived from the fact that, in the current day, the success of a few Asian American groups has caused people to deem all Asian Americans as successful. 

However, assuming the status of an Asian American person to be successful is untrue to some Asian Americans. 

The harm of the myth extends beyond an incorrect assumption of status and continues to plague current society.

In an article from the Berkeley Political Review, Yoojin Shin writes that the Johnson Administration, and a few after, utilized the model minority myth in their favor—subtly attempting to demonstrate that a minority’s lack of success was not systematic, but rather rooted in the mindset of the minority group.

To the Johnson Administration, success can be achieved through more efforts dedicated to education but they failed to recognize the systematic restraints that kept minorities from achieving this goal. 

Moreover, the myth was a plan to put Asian Americans and Black Americans against each other during one of the most pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement as the government over-saturated the media with the success of Asian Americans. They wanted to show that success for minorities was possible—some just weren’t trying hard enough.  

All of this gave Asian Americans an “apolitical presence in America” as Shin would put it since what was shown to the public was not the reality Asian Americans faced. 

By believing that all Asian Americans are successful, the discrimination is boiled down to an inconvenience rather than a constant belittlement at their personhood and experiences. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian Americans were facing an increase of hate crimes that rarely led to convictions. A majority of times, the community would have to fight to get justice for the crimes carried out against their elders. 

To put it simply, the model minority myth contributes to the ongoing abundant anti-Asian racism by portraying Asians as agreeable, with a lack of presence –especially political– and makes a racist feel like expressing hate toward Asian-Americans is “not as bad” or “controversial” as it may be to other minority groups. 

The model minority myth should be left in the past as it only enables further racism and discrimination against Asian Americans. 

Angela Jardina is an English junior who can be reached at [email protected]

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