In the U.S, being “Asian” carries implications beyond ethnicity and country of origin. Particularly in the classroom setting and the workplace, being “Asian” implies ambition and excellence, high-achievement and success. In America, being of Asian descent puts you in the category of the model minority, the minority group has made it – the group that assimilates itself most successfully in that country, and essentially, winners of the American Dream.
When I first learned about Asians being the model minority, I didn’t think there was anything particularly wrong. On the contrary, I figured, if every minority is associated with a stereotype anyway, then the “model minority” is probably a good standard to uphold to. After all, who doesn’t want to be part of the group that has the highest education rates and lowest crime rates?
Conventional success, no matter how inside-the-box, beats unconventional failure. Everything has multiple facets, and if this is the good side of racism, so be it.
It’s hard to vocalize stereotypes, especially when they seem to work in your favor. I can’t deny that part of the reason I work so hard is because I know that the standards I have to meet are high. Does the model minority stereotype push me to excel? I am generally an outgoing person, but if I don’t want to participate in a classroom setting, I will take advantage of my “quiet Asian girl” appearance and sit invisibly in the classroom, undisturbed by professor and classmates. We find it hard to justify our perturbation with the model minority stereotype when, in fact, we believe that we are beneficiaries of it.
Yet, the thing is, we’re not.
The model minority status is an excuse.
It is an excuse bestowed upon Asian Americans telling them, “Look, you’re smart and successful not because you worked for it, but because you are Asian, and this is how your people are.” The model minority stereotype appears to be an agent to our success when, instead, it strips us of our own self worth.
Why should I believe that my hard work is motivated by racism, when it is in fact, a part of who I am, and a reflection of my tenacity and strength? Why should I be able to play up the “quiet Asian girl” appearance, when that is not who I am, when such a type shouldn’t even exist? As a people, if we are a people, we should identify with our culture of origin – if we want – but that’s different from the model minority stereotype, because that is a categorization that was placed out of our control.