Friday, June 24, 2016

To Be Asian-American: The Model Minority

I’m a model minority. I’m that minority that doesn’t make you clutch your purse when I walk by. I’m that minority that doesn’t get followed around when walking into stores. I’m that minority that people assume is good at math. And I’m that minority is that worries you the least when I date your daughter.

I’m Asian, the good kind.  I’m Taiwanese. I’m not a communist from China, and my people weren’t your enemy during any wars. And I’m not from the other parts of Asian, like Pakistan, so that whole Muslim thing, not an issue.

Is it a relief to be the preferred minority in America? Not really, but I’m not going to deny that being at the top of the minority totem pole doesn’t provide me with a level of privilege that makes my life easier. And as with any kind privilege, these benefits have baggage, and are never “all good.”

The thing that I was told when first learning about race that the problem with the idea of the model minority was that when we as Asians fail to live up to people’s positive stereotypes, it hurts our feelings. As someone who isn’t great at math, (I have issues doing math in my head), I have had my fee-fees hurt when people assume I’m good at math. Either people laugh in disbelief when I inform them that I’m not a math genius or they look at me disgusted like I’m some sort of a lower form of Asian. Thank God, I’m decent at troubleshooting tech stuff. I don’t think I could deal with disappointing all of the people around me who ask me for tech help.

More significant than my fee-fees, the idea of the model minority made me blind to the fact that I was a minority, and that there were significant issues in my life related to racism in America. I’m not saying that I have the same degree of challenges as an African-American whose ancestors were brought to America through the slave trade or as a Mexican whose parents are illegal immigrants. I’m saying that somehow I came to assume that racism didn’t effect me and wasn’t my problem as an Asian or an American.

Then came moving to Chicago, a class in Asian-American History, my first African-American friend, and finally, working at a school that valued racial diversity and an open dialog around issues related to diversity and inclusion. And now, I see things differently.

Racism is everywhere in America. It feels like in the past year, it’s racism has come out of the closet in the guise of security and making America “great” like never before in my own memory. Yes, we’ve made progress but that’s no reason not to push and push hard for change.

The idea of the model minority is inherently racist. The categorization and the comparisons that people make between minority groups separates racial communities and builds a wall of prejudice and ignorance that gets in the way of Caucasians developed meaningful relationships with people of color.

Watch the model minority thing.

It’s much more than hurt fee-fees.

No comments:

Post a Comment