The Myth of Model Minorities

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"Racist Fridge" by mrpostal is licensed under Creative Commons.

by Noire Lin

Racism is a prominent issue within America, especially with its current political climate following the 2016 election. Cases of bullying and harassment within schools and workspaces are common as slurs are offhandedly thrown into jokes all too often. Racial minorities are the most targeted group within school environments, yet it isn’t only the majority groups that harass these students.

 It’s the minorities, too.

 Yes, you can be racist, too. No matter how much oppression your minority faced in the past, that doesn’t give you the excuse to rank and invalidate the struggles of other minority groups.

According to a report released by AAPI Nexus in 2012 following Former President Barack Obama’s White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans are the leading minority group to be harassed than any other racial group. 54 percent of Asian American teenagers said that they were bullied in the classroom, compared to the 31.3 percent of white students, 38.4 percent of black students and 34.3 percent of Hispanic and Latinx students. Outside of the classroom, Asian Americans are bullied at a rate 20 percent higher than white students and 10 percent higher than the next racial group. Online, they are bullied at a rate 40 percent higher than other racial groups.

Historically, Asian Americans students have experienced violent crimes just as often as other racial groups: Vincent Chin was attacked and killed in Detroit due to anti-Japanese sentiments in 1982, at least 30 Asian American students were attacked—13 being sent to the emergency room—in 2009 at South Philadelphia High School, and Sikh students in 2013 were repeatedly called “Aladdin” and “terrorist” in DeKalb County, Georgia. Hate crimes towards the Muslim and Sikh population have increased 17-fold since 2001 following 9/11.

Some claim that Asian Americans are the only students that don’t experience oppression, that they’re the “model minority” of overcoming discrimination in America. In an essay written by New York Magazine’s Andrew Sullivan, he writes:

Today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives? It couldn’t possibly be that they maintained solid two-parent family structures, had social networks that looked after one another, placed enormous emphasis on education and hard work, and thereby turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positives ones, could it? It couldn’t be that all whites are not racists or that the American dream still lives?

 Many credit their arguments of Asian Americans “making it” through discrimination to the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 by the Magnuson Act of 1943 — which allowed only 105 Chinese immigrants into the US every year — and the National Immigration Act of 1965 — which gave preference to immigrants with US relationships. Asian Americans are seen as “success stories” of racial discrimination, the “law-abiding, peace-loving, courteous people living quietly among us” that the Citizens Committee re-casted Chinese immigrants in their Repeal Chinese Exclusion argument. Some say that Asians have never felt the oppression others have.

Some also forget that there are over 50 different kinds of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander populations defined by Henry Ford Health System states forgotten when referring to Asians, that racism still exists past the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. 

In a Twitter campaign of #ThisIs2016, Asian Americans shared their own stories of racism with the US. Their tweets included powerful statements, quotes and encounters that Asian Americans have experienced in their life. Students of the Bowdoin Asian Students Associated expressed their version of #ThisIs2016 in a series of photos put on display in the university campus’ Smith Union. 

Oppression against Asian Americans exists, and it’s much more unnoticed than you would think.

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