By Wenyi Zhong, 2013-2014 Service Chair

          Stigmas. Stereotypes. Labels. These plague the world. These plague Asian Americans. Have you ever heard any of the following?

It’s because you’re Asian.
You’re Asian; you must be smart.
You’re Asian; you must get straight A’s.
You must study all the time.
You must be good at math and science.
You want to go to medical school, right?

         This is the model minority myth. The cultural expectation of Asian Americans to be smart, hard-working, docile, self-reliant and wealthy has clouded the truth behind our struggle for many decades.

          Many Asians and Pacific Islanders immigrated to the Americas in hopes of a better future for themselves and their children. We worked hard because we had nothing at the time. We persevered because it was what we had to do to survive. When some of us became successful, all of a sudden Asians became the group to compare other minorities to, becoming a standard of achievement for anyone that is not white.

          On paper, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders appear to be a high-achieving bunch with few of the challenges faced by other racial and ethnic minorities in U.S. schools. This began one of the most prominent stereotypes bestowed upon us, that all Asian Americans are successful and that none of us are struggling. This is way beyond the truth. The successful only make up a small portion of Asian Americans. Most are within the lower and middle classes, working endless hours and still in need of financial support.

modelmin

          This myth conceals a reality that is seldom acknowledged. It renders our Asian American population as invisible, which is very problematic. It strips away much needed attention to our cause, it strips away the voice that we need to be heard in this nation. In a lot of ways, Asian Americans have done remarkably well in achieving “the American Dream” of getting a good education, working at a good job and earning a good living. This is so much so that the image many have of Asian Americans is that we are the “model minority,” a bright, shining example of hard work and endurance. This forces upon other minorities the idea that they must follow this idealistic example.

          However, the practical reality is much more complicated than that. It is not all pretty and peachy as much as one may want to believe it to be so. Our lives are complex and diverse; we didn’t all graduate from Harvard with 4.0s and a full-ride. We have opinions, feelings, different interests, and our parents aren’t strict, oppressive human beings that make us study every minute of the day. Therefore, yes, maybe some Asian Americans are earning better pay and have better jobs, but aren’t some Caucasians making more money than other Caucasians as well?

          The idea that this makes Asian Americans exceptional causes us not only pain and suffering but it also hurts other minorities too. Asian Americans experience poverty, hate crimes, police brutality, incarceration, racism, sexism and all the other problems people of color face. It is high time that it is given a space in the talks within the media. It is time for us to stand up and be heard; to fight back against this model minority myth; to show the world that we are struggling just as much as everyone else.