Not Your Model Minority

Can we, as a society, truly claim to be progressive while simultaneously applying outdated stereotypes and expectations to Asian Americans?

The term "Model Minority" was first coined to describe Japanese Americans. However, as times passed, the term grew to encompass a much larger population of Asian Americans, more specifically, East Asian Americans. "Model Minority" by definition is a minority group, whether it be by religion, race, or ethnicity, whose socioeconomic success exceeds the norm of a population.

When Asians are referred to as the Model Minority, some may shake their heads and wonder what is so wrong with such implication of the term. After all, is it not a positive thing to be assigned such "wonderful" stereotypes solely based on your race? Nevertheless, this is where the problem lies. The concept of model minority is only a myth and nothing more.

Society's expectations of Asian Americans do nothing but strip away individuality from those that are so much more than the color of their skin. Such harmful myth allows others to see Asian Americans as nothing but walking stereotypes, the kung fu master, the awkward math genius, the brilliant pre-med student. The Asian Americans that fail to comply with such outdated clichés are frowned upon, disregarded as a failure and nothing more. Those that happened to fit into the mold society generally puts Asians into are still categorized as "one of the Asians," taking away any individuality they may have been clinging onto.

Perhaps one of the most common yet dreaded questions almost all Asians in America have once been asked is the famous "What kind of Asian are you?" It is a question asked by not someone who wants to educate themselves with the myriad of cultures Asia has to offer, but a way to dismiss the individual as another one of the stereotypes Asians represent in the American media. Growing up in a society that perceives Asians as nothing but a secondary role and never the leading man or woman, my Asian identity was the strongest indicator of how strangers perceived me on a daily basis.

Despite the attention I received for my heritage, the remarks that followed quickly displaced the excitement with shame. It seemed that no matter where I go, I was surrounded by an invisible line that could not, and should not be crossed. When I dared to step one foot out of the line, I was met with quizzical stares and phrases that diminished my self-worth to the mere color of my skin.

Maybe this why I am so vocal when it comes to race relations in America. It is the need to debunk society's outdated misconceptions about Asian Americans and the desire to prove that my individuality or self-worth should not be tied down to such shallow traits. Challenging the 21st century stereotypes towards Asian Americans has not only empowered me as an individual but also molded me into the strong minded woman I am today.