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.