Asian American - Cultural Issues - Stereotypes - Model Minority

Model Minority

Main article: Model minority

personal and household income in the United States Census in 2005

Asian Americans are sometimes characterized as a model minority because many of their cultures encourage a strong work ethic, a respect for elders, a high degree of professional and academic success, a high valuation of family, education and religion. Statistics such as high household income and low incarceration rate, low rates of many diseases and higher than average life expectancy are also discussed as positive aspects of Asian Americans.

The implicit advice is that the other minorities should stop protesting and emulate the Asian American work ethic and devotion to higher education. Some critics say the depiction replaces biological racism with cultural racism, and should be dropped.

This concept appears to elevate Asian Americans by portraying them as an elite group of successful, highly educated, intelligent, and wealthy individuals, but it can also be considered an overly narrow and overly one-dimensional portrayal of Asian Americans, leaving out other human qualities such as vocal leadership, negative emotions, risk taking, ability to learn from mistakes, and desire for creative expression. Furthermore, Asian Americans who do not fit into the model minority mold can face challenges when people's expectations based on the model minority myth do not match with reality. Traits outside of the model minority mold can be seen as negative character flaws for Asian Americans despite those very same traits being positive for the general American majority (e.g., risk taking, confidence, empowered). For this reason, some believe Asian Americans encounter a "bamboo ceiling," the Asian American equivalent of the glass ceiling in the workplace.

The model minority concept can also affect Asians' public education. By comparison with other minorities, Asians often achieve higher test scores and grades compared to other Americans. Stereotyping Asian American as over-achievers can lead to harm if school officials or peers expect all to perform higher than average. The very high educational attainments of Asian Americans has often been noted; in 1980, for example, 74% of Chinese Americans, 62% of Japanese Americans, and 55% of Korean Americans aged 20–21 were in college, compared to a third of the whites. The disparity at postgraduate levels is even greater, and the differential is especially notable in fields making heavy use of mathematics. By 2000, a majority of undergraduates at such elite public California schools as UC Berkeley and UCLA, which are obligated by law to not consider race as a factor in admission, were Asian American. The pattern is rooted in the pre-World War II era. Native-born Chinese and Japanese Americans reached educational parity with majority whites in the early decades of the 20th century.

Those who consider Asian Americans a "model minority" fail to realize that Asian American is a broad category encompassing many different ethnic groups with different histories. When divided up by ethnicity, it can be seen that the economic and academic successes supposedly enjoyed by Asian Americans are concentrated into a few ethnic groups. Cambodians, Hmong, and Laotians (and to a lesser extent, Vietnamese), all of whose relatively low achievement rates are possibly due to their refugee status, and that they are non voluntary immigrants as other ethnicities are more likely to be.

Furthermore, the model minority concept can be emotionally damaging to Asian Americans, particularly since they are expected to live up to those peers who fit the stereotype. Studies have shown that Asian Americans suffer from higher rates of stress, depression, mental illnesses, and suicides in comparison to other races, indicating that the pressures to achieve and live up to the model minority image may take a mental and psychological toll on Asian Americans.

Read more about this topic:  Asian American, Cultural Issues, Stereotypes

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Famous quotes containing the words minority and/or model:

    A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

    For an artist to marry his model is as fatal as for a gourmet to marry his cook: the one gets no sittings, and the other gets no dinners.
    Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)