What is the definition of “model minority”?

The “model minority” concept, often considered a myth, is a cultural expectation placed on a minority demographic based on stereotypes. As a concept typically applied to Asian Americans, the model minority concept refers to the idea that this minority group is polite, law-abiding, and has achieved a higher success level than other minority groups—all based on the stereotypes that all Asians are all good at STEM subjects, are complacent musical prodigies, and have prestigious but not executive level STEM careers. Furthermore, this myth creates the idea that other minority groups should follow the Asian American “model” in order to achieve the American Dream.

Opinion about the model minority myth/Impacts:

  • There are immense pressures and high expectations for Asian American students to do the best in school since the myth implies that all Asian students are academically successful. Students already experience academic pressures, and this myth increases their level of stress. These high standards place on further the negative encouragement to meet expectations in order to not be classified as a disgrace. This myth takes education on a new competitive level where one person is pitted against their collective race. Once you drift from that expectation, society labels you as an outcast.
  • The myth strips individuality from an entire race. Since the stereotype of Asians has been focused on their intellect in the STEM fields, people are led to believe that Asians are good at nothing else but STEM. Generally, the myth lumps Asians into one category and erases the diversity of the various Asian countries and ethnic groups.
  • While the good side of being the “model” minority race is consistently portrayed and imposed on Asian Americans, the history of discrimination, racism, and xenophobia towards the various Asian ethnicities is swept under the rug. The name Vincent Chin is unknown to many of Generation Z. His death and his murderers’ light sentence ignited an Asian American civil rights movement. Yet, the names still ring unfamiliar to many.
  • Another stereotype associated with the model minority myth is that Asian Americans are complacent and tend to refrain from creating conflict. While that is a positive stereotype, the downside is with the treatment of Asian Americans. There are people who find it easy to be racist and make racist jokes towards Asian Americans because they won’t face repercussions.
  • Not only does the model minority myth create problems for the Asian American community, but it also generates competition between Asian Americans and other minority groups. With this label as the “ideal” version of a minority group, other people of color may be considered less than Asian Americans in a completely made-up hierarchy. There is this idea that stems from the model minority myth that minority groups can overcome racism and inequality with hard work; however, that isn’t the case for many who experience racial obstacles. Instead of bringing people of color together, this myth generates jealousy, invalidates the impact of racism experienced by people of color, and can lead to conflict for Asian Americans.

What can be done about the model minority myth?

  • One of the best things the Asian community can do to dismantle such stereotypes is to raise awareness of why they are wrong and harmful. While people may say, “that’s not a bad stereotype,” it is still a stereotype nonetheless and does have negative implications on individuals in the Asian American community. As a group, we can educate others about the harmful side effects of the model minority myth and share our own personal experience with this label. By calling out the various forms of the model minority myth, we bring more awareness to the problems it causes. Tensions between Asian races and other minority groups could be eased by understanding the faults of this myth. Even racism towards Asian Americans can be alleviated if more people were to understand the consequences the Asian community faces because of the model minority myth.
  • Another way to raise awareness is to share stories of court cases, activists, and those wronged in the past. Some activists to learn about are Grace Lee Boggs, Larry Itliong, Ela Bhatt, and Yuri Kochiyama. One of the most infamous names in the Asian American community is Vincent Chin; learn about his untimely death and the “It’s not fair” civil rights movement it sparked. There are even Supreme Court cases like US v. Bhagat Singh Thind and Lum v. Rice to research. We need to educate ourselves and others about the stories and names that truly represent Asian Americans and falsifies the model minority myth.