“Model Minority”: The Backhanded Compliment to End Them All

You might not recognize the term, “model minority,” but surely, you have seen its presence in daily American life.  

 

The model minority myth is essentially a stereotype imposing a demanding set of cultural expectations on South and East Asian-Americans. According to this myth, we, as a whole, are inherently submissive, docile and naturally excellent in math, science, and technology. Moreover, we apparently face little disadvantage in society due to our race.

 

On the surface, this stereotype might seem inoffensive and even beneficial for our community to be portrayed this way. Some might wonder, why should we be complaining when we are held up to be America’s minority success story? Not sorry to break it to you, but the model minority myth comes with much more consequence and harm than the name might suggest.

 

The extensive amount of different Asian ethnic groups each come with their own perspectives and experiences in America, however, the model minority myth effectively flattens all the diversity present among these minorities into a singular, one-dimensional identity. It erases the centuries-long history of oppression the Chinese and Japanese have faced as inhabitants of this country and the decades-long harassment by society South/Southeast Asians have encountered as immigrants simply for looking and speaking the way they do.

The model minority myth also generates an immense amount of pressure among Asian-American youth to live up to its standards; this pressure provoking the dehumanization of AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) students and a disregard for our mental health. We are made out to be robots with the sole ambition to do well in school. Our hard work is discredited and our individual accomplishments are dismissed because of this false notion that we are “innately gifted” when it comes to academics.

 

We are then forced to comply with these taxing norms, pushing ourselves to over exhaustion and thus putting our mental health at risk, solely to avoid being perceived as an outlier of our community.