The concept of the model minority is based on stereotypes. The concept assumes Asian Americans as the law-abiding and polite people who seem to achieve a high level of success as compared to the general population by combining different innate talents as well as pulling up yourselves bootstraps immigrant striving. Most of the time, information about Asian American achievements brings together a diverse population to a single group. This information is deployed as a whole, then deploying that Asian Americans hold a high degree, and they end up earning more substantial incomes than the general population. Therefore, the stereotype emerges, showing that Asians are winning as they pursue the American dreams from the metrics and the attributions (Lee).
The model minority concept developed as a result of World War II. In a, they believe that Asian Americans are the immigrants of the United States due to their color and the economic achievement that they possess (Sheng). In the U.S., Asian Americans are a long time considered a threat to the nations responsible for promoting a white-only policy of immigration the ‘yellow peril’ means they were unfit as well as unclean for the American Citizenship. Later in the 19th Century, the white nativists were responsible for spreading xenophobic rumors about the Chinese unclean activities from the San Francisco (McIntyre). Therefore, it results in the passage of most infamous acts, that is, The Chinese Exclusion Act, A law in the U.S. that bared the immigration that was based on race (Hartlep).
During the start of the 20th Century, American officials in the Philippines and the formal colony from the U.S. denigrated Filipinos because of their uncleanliness and many uncivilized bodies. The colonial doctors and other officials found out two enemies that are, Filipino insurgents, which was against the American rule fostering the native bodies. The U.S. continued its ruling on the Island by pointing to the Filipinos’ medical unruliness and political unruliness.
On 19th Feb 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a president, passed Executive Order 9066, which involve people with suspicion as the enemies of the inland camps.
This order had an impact on German and Italian Americans from the East Coast. Most of the people incarcerated in the year 1942 were the descent Japanese. Many of these people were naturalized citizens as well as second and third-generation Americans. In the 21st Century, everyone, including the multicultural North American cities such as Toronto and Canada, becomes the hotbed to virulent racism. From the outbreak of SARS in 2003, Toronto experienced a rise in anti-Asian racism, which resembles todays. In the year 2008, Carriage Leung, a sociologist highlighted that, the daily racism against the Filipino and the Chinese health care workers who followed the SARS crisis in the following year. Due to this, they celebrated their work publicly in the hospitals and health facilities, but they were filled with fear as they were going home. Therefore, patriotism was not expressed even to those frontline workers in any pandemic meaning Asian migrants are not immune to the racism (Chow).
The model minority has evolved over the years, which has seen higher education attainment rates, representation has become high in white-color professionals as well as the managerial occupations. The model minority concept has also incorporated a high household income in the U.S. than any other racial group (Hartlep). The affected communities in the U.S. hold pride in labeling their model minority. The stereotype associated with the model minority is therefore considered to be detrimental to many relevant minority communities since it’s used to justify the exclusion of the minorities in distributing the assistance programs for both the private and the public and also to understate the individual achievements within the minority. In the evolution process, the concept of the model minority brings the minority groups against one another, implying that the groups are on the verge of falling short of these model minority levels of achievements as well as assimilation. The model minority has also significantly been criticized by other sources such as the NPR because they are homogenizing several experiences of the Asian Americans on one side and, on the other hand, the Hispanics and African Americans even though these groups are experiencing racism from their different ways. These critics associated with the evolution of the model minority concept in the U.S. also argues that this idea perpetuates the belief such that any minority has capabilities of rising economically with their efforts without taking in any assistance and also ignores the difference occurring from the history of the Asian Americans and the African Americans and other a times the Hispanics who lie in the U.S. (McIntyre).
The model minority concept is associated with the United States culture, and it’s not broadly used outside the United States even though other European countries have their concepts of classism, which are responsible for stereotyping the ethnic groups in a way similar to the model minority.
For example, Mr. Sing Sheng lost a bet on American democracy. This shows clearly that the American democracy is not worth betting for simply because they see themselves having the most successful economy. Americans think that no one can study their culture and incorporate their strategies like when the people of Southwood become less prejudiced against the idea of Mr. Sheng than losing their own money when investing in other things (Petersen).
Many people have found out that the concept of model minority has had complexities, all along with many negative stereotypes of Asian Americans, which are harmful. The model minority concept erases individual differences among themselves. An example is an 11th-grade child whose mother is a Malaysian Chinese and the dad in white. The child is seen as an Asian. Therefore, due to the concept of the model minority, his failure in reaching an expected achievement level in a math subject was attributed as a deficiency that is to mean he lacks efforts in his part (Report). Therefore, instead of differentiating for the child as the teacher does in the whole class, the teacher lets the child continue slipping. The child wasn’t offered extra help and any other support hence making the child find it difficult to know how to live in the image of the model minority; therefore, the student stopped trying. The child, at some point, was able to cope with this negative self-image, but other students are not able to do so. This concludes that many Asian American students have a big chance of attempting to commit suicide than the ones in different groups. This concept hides the pressure and the paradoxes, which are inherent among the Asian American identity. This means that you will find it challenging to find your place when you can’t fit in the idea. (McIntyre).
The model minority concept also ignores the cultural diversity of Asian Americans. Many information about Asian American achievements brings together the different populations into a singular grouping. Generally, Asian Americans hold higher degrees, and most of them earn huge incomes compared to the whole population. The achievements are attributed to the “differences in family attitudes towards education.” Due to these attributes and metrics, there emerges a stereotype whereby Asians are often winning in persuading the American dreams. But when the numbers are broken down, this concept begins to crack. An example is in the pay disparities: in every dollar made by a white man in the U.S., and Asian Indian women will earn $1.21, the Taiwanese woman will make $1.15. From this experience, it’s clear that these groups are not the same (Lee).
The model minority concept erases racism in Asian Americans against each other. When the Asian Americans are positioned as beneficiaries of the American dream, the idea of the model minority will ignore the Chinese Exclusion Act of the year 1882 as well as the Japanese internment in the 1940s. This idea suggests that the United States is a welcoming place for every Asian descendant, always despite the mass lynching of the Asian Americans in the 19th Century and also the murder of Vincent Chin in the year 1982. The concept persists. One of every seven Asian immigrants in America is undocumented today, and he/she will face potential deportation, which is an overlooked fact in the national conversation concerning immigration. This concept, therefore, states that Asian American is doing well at the moment and are, therefore, required to benefit from the elevated status among the people of color despite the systematic discrimination in many centuries. (Ukpokodu).
Finally, the model minority concept operates alongside the concept of Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners. This concept is among the stereotypes of Asian Americans. Most T.V.s and films that are popular in the U.S. exoticize Asian culture and people as well that is, if you are a man you are a Kungfu master, a woman then you are a submissive sex object, and when you happen to be transgender, then you are assumed not to exist at all. The message is obvious as it is buried in these stereotypes such that Asian Americans are termed to be the same but different from other Americans. That is, Asian American is most of the time perceived to have assimilated better compared to other minority groups. At the same time, Asian Americans seem to have some foreign qualities that make them perpetual outsiders (Chow).
Everyone in the U.S. needs to understand the different histories and experiences of every Asian American and American communities. Some of these people arrived in American as refugees as a result of the war in their countries and genocide as well. Others were imported as sharecroppers in the U.S. to replace the enslaved Africans descent after the Civil war. Other communities, such as the native to the Pacific Islands, were in America long before the white settler colonialism. As educators, we have a full responsibility to unlearn the biased and the simplistic beliefs that majority of the Americans holds about what it means to be an Asian American or the Pacific Islander to ensure that there is a better attending the ideal needs of all the American students and communities (Chow).
Chow, CJ. “Teaching for social justice:(Post-) model minority moments.” Journal of the Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement (2017).
Hartlep, ND. The model minority stereotype: Demystifying Asian American success. New York Times, 2013.
Lee, ES. Model Minority. Chicago: Bloomberg, 2020.
McIntyre, William A. Chinatown Offers Us a Lesson. New York Times, 1957. (Document #5)
Petersen, William. Success Story, Japanese American Style. New York Times, 1966. (Document #6)
Report by the U.S. News & World. “Success Story of One Minority Group in the U.S..” 1966. (Document #7)
Sheng, Sing. “Condemns Southwood’s Denial of Housing to Sing Sheng.” Life Magazine (1952). (Document #1)
Ukpokodu, ON. “African immigrants, the “New Model Minority”: Examining the reality in US K-12 schools.” The Urban Review (2018): pp. 69–96.