Not All Asians – The Model Minority Myth (Opinion)

(Namkung, Victoria. “The Model Minority Myth Says All Asians Are Successful. Why That’s Dangerous.”, NBCUniversal News Group, 22 Mar. 2021)

Angela Wu , Guest Editorial

Throughout my life, I have heard the phrase, “You’re Asian so you’re good at math right?” countless times from my peers. I agreed in the moment, but it was uncomfortable. I knew so many Asian-American teens who didn’t fit that stereotype. They weren’t studious or introverted; they excelled in team sports and were social butterflies. But it wasn’t until much later that I realized these stereotypes were a part of an underlying problem: the model minority myth. 


The model minority myth is a myth perpetuated by white people and the system of oppression. According to Kat Chow of NPR, “many white people have used Asian-Americans and their perceived collective success as a racial wedge” by using them as an example for other races; if they can do it, why can’t you? It is used to force a narrative where Asian-Americans are the perfect minority that achieves success through hard work. 


It’s a fine line to be walked. I know parents who are immigrants from China. They worked incredibly hard to go from living in poverty to be able to fully support two children and their family back in mainland China. They believe their success is a result of their hard work because they lived it. However, it should be understood that hard work does not always equate to success. The false assumption that minority groups are “unsuccessful” because they do not work hard must not be made. It completely disregards how racism and discrimination towards people of color affect every aspect of a person’s life, because it essentially argues that racism towrds American minority groups can be overcome through hard work.


So, did those parents overcome racism to achieve success then? No. They still face prejudice. The harmful model minority myth is present and it undermines the struggles of Asian-Americans. In the workplace, Asian-Americans are seen as easy-to-manage employees but not great leaders. This leads to the statistic that “Asian-American white-collar professionals are the least likely racial group to be promoted into management roles”, according to an analysis of national workforce data. Ultimately, the model minority myth invalidates the injustices Asian-Americans face by pretending like their success and racism cannot coexist.


Additionally, the model minority myth treats the success of Asian-Americans as one group. However, they have the largest income gap of any racial group. In fact, the “top 10th percentile of Asian-Americans earn 10.7 times as much as the bottom 10th percentile.” It is ignorant to assume that all Asian-Americans are successful. By regarding Asian-Americans as a monolith, the experiences of those who do not fit that mold are erased. 


In the time of a sharp rise in Asian-American hate crimes and the inappropriately named “kung flu virus”, let this remind you: not all Asians are good at math, not all Asians are introverted, not all Asians are the same. But we are all Americans.