Asian privilege. I come from a country that is made up almost entirely by people from different countries, so I never quite noticed this concept. Growing up, I didn't quite understand the concept of privilege. No doubt, racism is rampant in Malaysia and the rest of Asia, but, I grew up predominantly in a wealthy private school - everyone there was privileged, so I never noticed it. But, something I always knew was this: Asians never had a leg up in the world, everything I had was because of my parents, and grandparents who worked harder than anyone else I knew.
In fact, I was encouraged to be more "white." To have pale skin, to speak English without an accent, and to go to a university in the West. My grandfather, who had lived in Malaysia during colonialism wanted this for me. He saw how there was an inherent difference between the colonialists and the colonized. He saw that they had freedom, while he did not.
Look, I acknowledge that I am privileged, more so than most people in the world. However, I do not believe that I am privileged because of my skin color - I believe I am privileged despite my skin color and the many negative associations that come with it. No doubt many would disagree with me. They will cite all the rich Chinese kids trawling in their campuses with their Gucci handbags and Aston Martins.
Well, over Summer, Trump and his administration attempted to use Asian Americans as a reasoning against Affirmative Action. Here's the thing, it is not other students of color who are taking spots from more qualified Asian American students, it is white students. In a 2006 study conducted by William C. Kidder, the author talks about the idea of negative action.
Negative Action is defined as "unfavorable treatment based on race, using the treatment of Whites as a basis for comparison. In functional terms, negative action against Asian Americans is in force if a university denies admission to an Asian American who would have been admitted had that person been White.” (Jerry Kang)
The author later concludes that with negative action, it is actually white students who are taking places away from qualified Asian Pacific Americans (APAs). And if negative action were to be reversed, this would end with the transfer of these seats from White students to APAs, with little effect on African American and Latino students.
This is not the first time conservatives have tried to push a divide between Asian Americans, and Blacks and Hispanics. The fundamental creation of the "model minority" myth was based on this divide and conquer strategy. The myth over-generalizes a group hailing from around 40 different countries and makes it seem all Asians are the same when this is not true. For example, the myth does not address the issue that Hmong Americans, Buthanese-Americans and Asian American refugees trends higher rates of poverty than say Japanese-Americans. The myth also avoids the reality that there has been a highly selective recruitment of highly educated and rich (The EB-5, 'millionaire visa program) Asian immigrants to have priority.
Congress pretends to care about Asians and Asian Americans, while "forgetting" that the Chinese Exclusion Act was extended from 1882 to 1943! Also negating that it was the only immigration act to ban a specific ethnic group. Asians/Asian Americans are stuck in the crossroads of the Model Minority Myth and the Yellow Peril. We have been seen as this group that was meant to be idealized, yet we are also treated as unfair robots taking up jobs and opportunities from Americans. The Japanese were interned, but what about the Germans and Italians?
We were barred from America, our early applications for citizenship denied, and our people thrown in camps as America fought to free others from camps. It's time we stop playing into the conservatives' hands and actually support one another. Because no matter how many millionaires and Ph.D. students from Asia immigrate here, we will still be relegated to this myth: mousey, quiet, boring, lacking leadership skills, etc.
The myth hurts us, it relegates billions into a single stereotype, and it undermines our growth as a continent.