Model Minority: Good or Bad?

TIME Magazine - Asian American Whiz KidsModel Minority: (as defined on Wikipedia)

Model minority refers to a minority ethnic, racial, or religious group whose members achieve a higher degree of success than the population average. This success is typically measured in income, education, and related factors such as low crime rate and high family stability. Critics of this terminology say that it amounts to racial stereotyping, and that its use may be a political tool and its implications incite jealousy and fighting among ethnic minorities, an example of leveraging majority power dynamics to provoke ill sentiments between minority groups.

As a student of Asian American Studies, I realize the topic of Model Minority could warrant its own 12 week course, but let’s just take a whack at it shall we?

  • Is the Model Minority a myth? What truth(s) lie in this?
  • What are the positives of the “Model Minority” stereotype? Negatives?
  • Are good stereotypes good? Are good stereotypes bad?
  • Why should (or shouldn’t) Asian Americans fight the Model Minority stereotype?
  • Discuss.

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    12 Responses to “Model Minority: Good or Bad?”

    • The same Wikipedia entry shows that model minority is proven for asian americans in … (go figure)… Seattle area around the 2000s. Don’t ask me about the study, go ask Arthur Hu. I can tell you from experience growing up in the 80s 90s around that area that it was there. All the while, my cousins in Cali ate up the bad side of the stereotype due to the fact that there were so many asian communities there and the academic competition was fierce.

      Now living the in the South, it’s back (mainly because you don’t have many Asians here). The issue with your question is that you phrase it as a negative, so it’s framed in the negative and not a middle ground. So you already push the argument towards your end.

      The point is, depending on the nature of the stereotype, and geography, and demographic, model minority can play well or not. Your questions are loaded since there’s no good answer. I can answer it’s great in the South.. you can say it sucks in the West. It’s like trying to prove liberals are better than conservatives or vice versa in politics.

    • Oops. typo there… meant to say “living in the South”. heh.

    • Darkmoon,

      Of course my questions are loaded!

      There are definitely no right or wrong answers; just trying to get people to think about the topic.

      Great observation about geography and how the stereotype plays out differently in different parts of the nation.

    • Model Minority is a myth as the number of generations removed you are from immigrating to the United States (as with all ethnic groups). Also, it is becomes a greater myth as you go to higher concentrations of Asian Americans (i.e Hawaii & California/West Coast)

      The positives are that Asian Americans are considered smart and hard working. The negatives is that for those who are not smart or hard working (or not good at math or science), there is a level of expectation that you need to “perform” too… It’s sad and shocking to know that Asian American females from 18-to-35 (or something like that) have the highest suicide rate in the U.S.

      Stereotypes can be good and bad. At the end of the day, stereotypes have some truths to them, but one must remember that we are all individuals as well.

      I think fight is too strong of a word – Asian Americans should continually *educate* who we are as groups and as individuals.

    • Ahh.. that’s a good point with the number of generations removed. Although, I think that really depends on how fiercely you hold onto the cultural ways. While, I’m technically only first generation in the US (born and raised), the ways of Chinese life were engrained into me a lot more than a lot of my friends growing up.

      Personally, I find that’s from a first impression standpoint, it’s a lot easier to use model minority in my advantage. Just as you take any situation and play off the good side. Truth of the matter is, both of the positives mentioned can give you a boost from the start of a relationship with whomever (work, new acquaintances, etc). What you do with that boost is up to you (which would also turn around quickly if you don’t work hard, etc).

      But given what there is out there? I’ll take the asian stereotype any day of the week.

    • Would also like to point out….if I didn’t read this, I wouldn’t have known why Jozjozjoz actually wrote it in as a myth. The fact that model minority in academics has never been in a positive light, makes a lot more sense.

      This might be worth pointing out, since I’ve actually never heard of the term before, having taken asian studies in college.

    • 1. The “model minority” concept is NOT a myth at all, but it certainly is NOT uniformly applicable to all Diasporic Asian communities either. Asians have made themselves the “other white meat.”

      2. Positives of the model minority stereotype: We get the job because we’re automatically assumed to be hard-working, disciplined, brilliant at math and sciences, and the bosses can rest assured that we’re not “rabble rousers” and won’t start strikes or fail to conform.

      3. Negatives of the model minority stereotype: Asians themselves begin to require members of their own community to live up to that model minority myth so that when an Asian is not brilliant at math and sciences or chooses not to conform or instigates controversy, we outcast them from our community before the Whites even have a chance to do it. We thus cause more division within our community than solidarity, and we can never form a strong enough political voting block.

      Finally, not to get all Hallmarky on you, but it’s not about fighting or not fighting the stereotypes; it’s about being true to yourself and holding steadfast to your integrity, whether it conforms to society’s expectations or not.

    • Haha… “the other white meat.” Nice.

    • Sorry. I didn’t back up my answer on where I saw that Jozjozjoz said myth… At least that was my assumption.

      What’s interesting is that this topic is actually a very good one for non-Asians to read. They would get a better understanding of the cultural backlash that some of the first gens face. Don’t know about you guys, but this topic was just one of the many things that I found where Chinese (mine) culture and American culture just didn’t mix well together. We isolate ourselves at times, and with all of the things from table manners to our work ethics, it’s just different. Not sure about ya’ll (yes, I said ya’ll), but it took me a long time figuring out how to mesh the two together between family life and friends/school.

    • my very first article published in a magazine was about my getting a job based on the model minority stereotype, except that at the time I wrote it, I didn’t know there was a term for it.

      I was sacked 3 days later from said job. Her parting words were, “This has nothing to do with how you were raised.” (huh?)

      I think Akrypti hits it right on the nail where the community actually needs to learn to be true to themselves and hold on to what they believe in and not be so concerned about what society may think about them.

      And what’s up with calling us ‘Minorities’? … Over half of the world’s population is of Asian descent.

    • I once had a job interview where the interviewer said, “This job requires a lot of math. But since you’re Asian, that’s no problem for you.”

      Even though he offered more money than a competing job offer, I went with the other offer.

    • i prefer having the model minority stereotype. it’s inaccurate, but hey… as a member of another minority group (gays) who is associated with child molesters, terrible diseases, promiscuity, ugly hairdos, drugs, alcoholism, and mental illness by places such as freerepublic, positive stereotypes are good, taking into account the alternatives. people are always going to stereotype. might as well have a good one.

      we can’t get rid of stereotypes; if we get rid of one… another will simply take its place. so i say use it to your advantage.

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