My dad remembered the time he met Indian American parents who trained their kids for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. He grimaced when the parents showed off their kids as the model minority, a term sociologist, William Peterson, coins in “Success Story, Japanese-American Style” to generalize Asian-Americans as hardworking immigrants desperate to assimilate in America. Even though the concept is a myth, rich Indian-Americans still strive to become the model minority by training their children to dominate the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But, at the same time, those Indian-Americans neglect their own class privileges.
Rich Indian-Americans practice a key aspect of becoming the model minority: education. Peterson states that the Japanese-Americans emphasize education as a key element to their success: “their education was conducted like a military campaign against a hostile world; with intelligent planning and tenacity, they fought for certain limited positions and won them.”
Like the Japanese-Americans that Peterson portrayed in his article, rich Indian-Americans undertake a militaristic planning in their children’s training for the spelling bee. To illustrate, Srinivas Mahankali trains his sons, Srinath and Arvind, to go hours of scoping through the dictionary, targeting the most obscure words, and pinpointing the meanings and origins of those words. Both Srinath and Arvind must do these three things before they pronounce each word correctly. Srinivas justifies the extensive training by stating that all immigrant children must succeed in English. But Srinivas and other rich Indian-Americans have the money and time to even train their kids; the poor Indian-Americans do not.
Rich Indian-Americans practice the classism promoted by the concept of the model minority. Writing for Vox, Limay Ho details his family history, which consists of military officials, clerks, and landlords, to demonstrate his class privilege. He then proceeds to say the model minority concept acts as “a wedge to deny economic and racial justice.” Indeed, while the rich Indian-Americans claim that their children’s success in the spelling bee comes from hard work, their children actually benefit from their parent’s education back in India. And education in India means exposure to the English language.
For instance, the poor Indian-Americans (about 9% of the diaspora) arrive to the country as less educated and thus they have limited English fluency. Thus, they do menial tasks, like working overtime in restaurants to provide for their kids. Meanwhile, rich Indian-Americans arrive to the country as highly educated, so they become CEOs, engineers, or hedge fund managers that allow them the opportunity to buy themselves a mansion for their kids to play, learn, and, of course, train for the god d*mn spelling bee.
Recalling how the Indian parents shoved their kids onto his face, my dad said to me that they, along with other Indian parents, got their money from smuggling.
“These people are the corrupted......" My dad angrily remarked. "......and their children are the children of the corrupted."
Corruption from a spelling bee? Eh, that's extreme. But, consider this: you're an Indian kid, your dad is an engineer, and he wants you to memorize all these complicated words at night in addition to learning Latin and playing the viola.
Since your dad trained you like you were a sinner in hell, you won the Scripps National Spelling Bee. So, let's flash forward to years after you won that thing. You, like every Indian-American speller, graduated from Columbia.
Walking down the streets of New York City, you and your family are about to celebrate till you see a homeless man begging for change.
Do you, the successful Indian-American, stop and give him change?
Well, this homeless man never participated in a spelling bee, so he clearly never worked hard in his life.
Why give him any change when he doesn't deserve it?