Yes, Asian-Americans Count As People Of Color

Stop Using The 'Model Minority' Stereotype To Argue Asian-Americans Aren't People Of Color

The model minority myth has been used to discredit and degrade other minority groups speaking up about discrimination and racism.

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In discussions of racism and people of color in the United States, it often seems like Asian Americans are left out. The general perception of Asians as a minority is that they may face discrimination, but someone always has it worse, or in many cases, Asian Americans are not regarded as a marginalized group at all. I've even heard a friend, who is Asian American herself, tell me that discrimination against Asian Americans "isn't really a thing."

Some will even claim that Asian-Americans are not people of color. All of this leads back to the model minority myth.

The model minority myth claims that Asian Americans are successful and thriving in the United States, which is what makes them the "model minority." This is linked to common stereotypes about Asians, such as "all Asians are smart" or "Asians are good at math." The model minority myth has been used to discredit and degrade other minority groups speaking up about discrimination and racism, most prominently in that of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. The idea is that Asian Americans are more hardworking and disciplined, proving that minority groups can succeed in the United States and that it's not racism that is holding them back. The use of the model minority myth is only an attempt to degrade other minorities who speak up about their discrimination and to excuse and cover up racism in the United States. This creates a divide between Asian Americans and other groups: Asian Americans are put on this pedestal, while it is implied that other racial minorities are somehow less deserving.

This, of course, is false.

Racism is very much an issue in the United States, and it still affects Asian Americans no matter how much those who use the model minority myth like to think otherwise. In fact, Asian Americans are actually least likely to be promoted to management positions due to stereotypes that Asians are less assertive and more passive.

Ironically, the model minority myth, while attempting to elevate Asian Americans as a successful minority, contributes to many of the difficulties and discrimination faced by Asian Americans. The idealization of Asians perpetuates stereotypes and puts unnecessary pressure on Asian Americans, especially at a young age, as well as giving credit to their race for any success they have rather than their work as individuals. And because this myth diminishes the issue of racism against them, Asians are not seen as an underrepresented group by many and are not given much attention in any programs or efforts for diversity, when in fact, this is not the case at all.

In Hollywood, Asians only make up about one percent of all leading roles. Furthermore, a recent study shows that Asian Americans suffer the most, in terms of impact on their well-being, from racism and discrimination. This is likely due to the belief that Asian Americans are a less marginalized group. Consequently, racism and discrimination not commonly brought up in Asian American households and Asian Americans are not as prepared to face these issues, causing a greater negative effect on their emotional well-being.

There is no value or weight to the model minority myth: it is harmful to both Asian Americans and the minorities they are compared to. It only serves to further isolate Asians from other minorities, and unfortunately, in many cases, it works. It is important to include Asian Americans in conversations about racism and discrimination. These issues are just as real for us. The model minority myth is nothing more than that: a myth.

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A Day In Immigration Court

"America is a nation founded by immigrants" could not be more true in this space.

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This past month, I started my summer internship with a local immigration attorney. Throughout the summer, I will be observing the day-to-day responsibilities of an immigration law office, which includes observing client appointments, compiling evidence and legal research for cases, and attending hearings at the federal immigration court in New York City. Immigration court is vastly different than anything I had ever experienced, and the harsh reality of the American immigration system manifests itself in the immigration courts themselves. Yet after only a couple of days witnessing various hearings in court, I want to look beyond the inefficiencies ingrained in our current immigration system and instead paint a picture so that you can understand the underlying effects of the American dream taking place.

There are two floors designated for the immigration courts in the federal building. After exiting the elevator, there is an overwhelming presence of individuals and family units awaiting their presence in court. One time I saw a woman holding a baby that was days old outside of the courtroom. Courtrooms are numbered and labeled with the last name of the immigration judge on the door, and individuals are expected to wait outside with either an attorney, accredited representation, or any other people accompanying the respondent before his or her trial.

Aside from the large conglomerate of immigrants on this floor, there are multiple signs taped to the walls contain directions in languages, including Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, etc. While on these floors, you cannot help but be surrounded by different people, languages, and cultures. In its essence, this is the presence of the American "melting pot" at its finest. There is something inherently beautiful about intersecting cultures and ways of life, and being in the presence of such different people can allow yourself to open your eyes to such different perspectives. Is that not what America is about?

The popular saying, "America is a nation founded by immigrants" could not be more true in this space.

Since my first time at immigration court, I have witnessed individuals win and individuals lose their case. However, a loss does not have to be the end for some individuals. There is an option to appeal the decision from the immigration judge to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) within thirty days. In cases where the individual receives legal status, it feels as though a large burden is placed off of the individual's shoulders. No longer do they have to struggle through the American immigration system after years of perseverance, and in some cases, individuals can move towards becoming an American citizen.

It is almost funny to think that my presence in a government building could spark an inspirational motivator. However, I think my experience in immigration court is more humbling than anything. It puts into perspective the lengths that individuals take to make their case in front of a judge. For them, America is worth fighting for. Although there are various inefficiencies within the current immigration system, I am not trying to romanticize the reality of immigration court. Most of the time, the lines are long, interpreters are unavailable, and cases are more difficult than ever to win. However, instead of focusing on these points, I think it is important to re-focus on the bigger picture behind the immigration courts, realizing the positives amidst all of the negatives.

Although this is only the beginning of my internship, I am excited to see where this opportunity will lead me. I am excited to hear the stories of others, which showcase their determination against hardship and persecution. And I am determined to not only witness but also initiate change first-hand, one case at a time.


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