By Ky Tran
“If you are Asian, you must be smart.”
“Asians are nerds.”
“They are overachievers,”
People often regard Asians through a stereotype that all Asians are studious, intelligent, and successful. However, this is not always the story. Asia is the world’s largest continent, including East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. You cannot cover the whole continent with a single stereotypical blanket. In the United States, people usually don’t view Asian Americans as Americans, but rather view them as Asians and apply the stereotypical thinking on them. Stereotypes often portray Asians as a “model minority.”
Model minority is a minority group, whether based on ethnicity, race, or religion, whose members achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the other groups of the population. Prior to 1960s, the term was coined for Japanese Americans who were often high-achieving. Later on, the term was widely used to indicate the success of East Asians, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and South Asians, such as Indian.
Some people take pride in the term “model minority” because they see it as a positive stereotype. In my perspective, this coined phrase diminishes the equal opportunities the Asian Americans should get, and puts an invisible pressure on the community.
In some cases, Asian Americans do not share the same opportunities as other groups of people. For example, in the 1980s, many Ivy League schools admitted that they had limited admission for Asian Americans. The admission office believed that with the high degree of success, the students will be overrepresented in many areas of college admissions. Instead, they would choose other students from different racial groups with a lower test score. If this was the case, would this mean that Asian Americans always have to get a high test score to enter those prestigious colleges?
“Model minority is a rampant issue at the college campus,” said Rosie, a junior at UCLA who majors in Asian American Studies, “I am from Southeast Asia; and Southeast Asians are considered as a minority in the school. Often, we are underrepresented.”
Unlike the other parts of Asia, Southeast Asia does not share the same standard of livings. Most of the countries in Southeast Asia are underdeveloped or developing countries. Most of the adult immigrants come from this part don’t have a college education due to wars. As reported by the Asian-Nation organization, “Vietnamese Americans have a college degree attainment rate of 20%, less than half the rate for other Asian American ethnic groups. The rates for Laotians, Cambodians, and Hmong are even lower at less than 10%.”
This concept is not positive at all because of its injustice; the effects it carries is critical. People tend to ignore the racism towards Asian Americans because they don’t take it as negative references. Hence, our voices are not heard. We have a lack of opportunities. According to Edith Wen-Chu Chen, “due to the impacts of the Model Minority stereotype, unlike other minority serving institutions, Asian American Pacific Islander serving institutions (AAPISI) did not receive federal recognition until 2007.”
Also, it causes distress and anxiety of the Asian Americans community. Families always try to force their children to live up their expectation and the society’s expectation. As a high school senior who is going to graduate soon in June, I have felt a certain pressure from my relatives. They have been pressing me to study a particular major, such as dentistry, to make big money. Not only that but they also want me to go to the elite university to make them proud. Not everyone shares the same situation, but I’m sure that we feel trapped in the same way.
Why do we have to live in such a circumstance? Will thing be different if we removed our Asian American tag? Everyone should understand that being a model minority does not mean we are genius and more excellent than the other group of people. It just means that we have more pressure to face, and more responsibility to bear. Therefore, the model minority myth has to be eradicated to preserve the equality, justice, and fairness for Asian Americans.