It is difficult to hold Asians up as members of a model minority who have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. Asian immigrants to the U.S. tend to be more educated and affluent than the compatriots they leave behind. They generally have not suffered extreme poverty, racism, legal discrimination or hateful prejudice within their own nations.
The model minority myth does a disservice to Asian-Americans, because it suggests they do not need, nor could benefit from, affirmative action. As we have seen, the glass ceiling exists for this minority as well, not to mention the poverty and income inequality that afflict all other groups of Americans. Unfortunately, the myth blinds others to these realities.
Le (2007) states that Asian Indians consistently outperform not only other Asian ethnic groups but Whites in several achievement measures, sometimes by a large margin. There are plenty of Asian Americans who are quite affluent and successful, and as Asian Americans, we should rightly feel proud of these examples of their success.
The point is that just because many Asian Americans have “made it,” it does not mean that all Asian Americans have made it. In many ways, Asian Americans are still the targets of much prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination. Asian Americans are increasingly becoming the targets of hate crimes in the U.S. Asian Indians and other successful Asian Americans may have extraordinary levels of socioeconomic achievement but it’s very unlikely that many of them will say that they no longer experience discrimination because of their Asian ethnicity.
Ultimately, the process of achieving socioeconomic success among Asian Americans is very complex. There are many examples of affluence and prosperity within the Asian American population but in many ways, we still face the same types of racism, social inequality, and institutional discrimination that other groups of color face. Therefore, the image that the entire Asian American community is the “model minority” is a myth.
Le, C.N. 2007. “The Model Minority Image” Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. Retrieved December 11, 2007, from http://www.asian-nation.org/model-minority.shtml