Model Minority



On October 3, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 into law, a bill sponsored by Senator Philip A. Hart of Michigan and Representative Emanuel Cellar of New York. His goal was to erase a longstanding quota system limiting the number of immigrants from non-European countries. Each country had an annual cap of 20,000 visas, and spouses, minor children, and parents were nonquota immigrants. This law preferenced family reunification, skilled workers, and highly educated professionals, especially in the science, technology, and medical fields, to enhance America's competitiveness during the Cold War. The Asian population increased by half a million, and only 20 % t came from Europe, contributing to the United States' demographic shift.


In January 1966, William Peterson, a sociologist from the University of California Berkely, coined the phrase model minority in the New York Times Magazine article, Success story Japanese American style. In this article, he stated, "The history of Japanese Americans, however, challenges every such generalization about ethnic minorities, and for this reason alone deserves far more attention than it has been given. Barely more than 20 years after the end of the wartime camps, this is a minority that has even prejudiced criticism. By any criterion of good citizenship that we choose, the Japanese Americans are better than any other group in our society, including native-born whites. They have established this remarkable record, moreover, by their own almost unaided effort. Every attempt to hamper their progress resulted only in enhancing their determination to succeed."


Although Asians, on the whole, are doing better financially compared to other racial groups, the story is more complex than it seems. The top 10 % earn at least ten times more than the bottom ten%. For example, in New York City, Asians experience the highest poverty rates compared to any other immigrant group. Collectively, we tend to ignore the multiethnic diversity apparent in the Asian population. They are not monolithic. For example, in China alone, there are 56 ethnic groups.

Individuals tend to make surface-level analyses and generalizations about this population without disaggregating the data. The model minority myth is mentally and emotionally harmful and causes unbelievable pressure on those who cannot attain those goals, which sometimes leads to suicidal thoughts.


Although Asians have made great strides over the years, discrimination still exists, from microaggressions to acts of violence.

  • There has been increasing violence and prejudices toward Asians since COVID-19 was labeled a "Chinese virus" and originated in Wuhan, China.

Also, microaggressions like:

  • Where are you?

  • You are pretty fluent in English.

  • Can you help me with math? These microaggressions assume that all Asians are foreigners, first-generation Americans, or good in Math.

Over the years, there has been racial tension between Asians and Black people, primarily caused by the racial hierarchy. In this country, people have often labeled Black as the antithesis of white, and Asian is in between, which furthers this dissension. In the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the increase in violence toward Asians, there has been a shift in perceptions. Often Asians are perceived as intelligent, obedient, and non-threatening; however, many are now getting involved in social justice.

To this end, assimilation and cultural racism are costly not only for the race but also for the individuals. Every person has sacrificed their true identity to realize the American dream. Aspects like traditions and language will forever be lost. It is time to promote a society where individuals can bring their whole selves to the table, culture, and all.


Quote

  • Confucius: "What the superior man seeks is in himself. What small man seeks is in others."


Read

  • Why the Model Minority Myth Is So Harmful by Janice Omadeke

  • All Are Welcome by Cynthia Owyoung


Watch


Podcasts

  • Asian Enough

  • Model Majority Podcast


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