The New York Times led a discussion last week on the effects of being a model minority on the Asian Americans, who are often categorized as a single group, comprising about 5.4 percent of the U.S. population. But despite economic disparities between nationalities, it is the highest paid racial group, and its members are more likely to be seen as advantaged, than disadvantaged. But is it fair to stereotype Asian-Americans as a “model minority,” free of the burdens of discrimination? Or do they also face obstacles as other nonwhite groups do?
Bernadette Lim, a senior at Harvard University, is the founder and executive director of Women SPEAK and a senior adviser of the Harvard Asian-American Women’s Association, “Arguments of Asian cultural superiority often try to validate the model minority label: The success of Asian-Americans in the United States is “a tribute to hard work, strong families and passion for education.” Positive stereotypes about Asian-Americans are frequently seen as more beneficial than detrimental to the student psyche, in spite of research that these stereotypes harm Asian-American students’ mental health and well-being.”
Karthick Ramakrishnan is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Riverside, and the director of AAPI Data and the National Asian American Survey, pointed out, “For Asian-Americans, these differences in national origin can be quite stark, on aspects ranging from education and income, to health outcomes and language proficiency. For example, Vietnamese-Americans have the lowest level of English proficiency (47 percent), while Filipinos and Indians have the highest (78 percent each). These differences, in turn, can help government agencies and nonprofits determine which groups would need language assistance the most, particularly when accessing health care or finding affordable housing.”
According to Karthick, There are aspects of commonality among them, particularly when it comes to their policy views, as Asian-Americans tend to support higher taxes and more social spending, regardless of national origin. Importantly, however, even this commonality among Asian-Americans cannot simply be assumed; it needs to be proved using evidence that accurately captures the group’s national origin diversity.
A column by Nicholas Kristof published over a week ago in the New York Times began with what the writer calls, “Why are Asian Americans so successful in America?” The column cited psychology and sociology research noting that while Asian immigrants are “disproportionately doctors, research scientists and other highly educated professionals” and their children have in turn achieved academic success, there is no evidence to show that Asian Americans are inherently smarter than other racial groups. Kristof instead credited their success to “East Asia’s long Confucian emphasis on education,” familial sacrifices and positive stereotypes.
The Washington Post followed up the discussion. “While many Asian American commenters said they appreciated Kristof’s attempt to clarify his points, the post likely befuddled others. What could be objectionable, after all, about a column representing as fact the achievements of Asian immigrants in America? But to many Asian Americans, the column’s opening gambit isn’t just awkward. It’s offensive — and dangerous,” The Post commented.
“Angry!” one tweet said. “What a way to wake up. Thanks @NickKristof for feeling the need to perpetuate a sustained, damaging myth.” “Someone pls make Nicholas Kristof’s hack race analysis go away,” read another from Vulture editor E. Alex Jung.
According to Washington Post, “While Kristof’s intent with the column was to confront past responses from readers who had pointed to the Asian American community as proof that “white privilege” doesn’t exist, many felt that he has done so by perpetuating a harmful, decades-old “model minority” myth about the supposedly universally accepted notion that all Asian Americans are successful.”