Busting the Model Minority Myth
The model minority myth is a theory propagated about numerous non-Black immigrant communities living in the United States. This theory pushes the idea that certain communities that come from two-parent family homes, pursue higher education, and belong to the upper middle class are more likely to be law abiding citizens and the “Model” for other minority groups. Naturally South and East Asian communities have clung to this theory because it paints the picture that these various communities have been able to integrate themselves into the fabric of American society. The very surface level idea of this theory comes off as something that these various communities should be proud of but the undertones of racial propaganda that seeks to subjugate Black communities is extremely detrimental and dangerous.
The Model Minority Myth is not recognizing the uniqueness of the communities who fall under it but instead acts as a method of measuring how differing racial and ethnic groups fall on the scale of whiteness. In addition to this, it pushes the idea that Non-Black communities of color who are dubbed with the Modern Minority title have achieved success through capitalistic practice which in turn have stifled specific Black and Brown communities. The idea of the “American Dream” is closely tied to this as it acts as a divisive theory to measure success based on how much a community buys into the capitalistic systems that America has set up, which at the same time selectively keep certain communities underprivileged.
While the Model Minority Myth is something that has and is being discussed extensively, so many immigrant communities of color accept and push ideals that are intimately connected to it. As South Asian identifying people, it is important for us to bust the myth whenever we come across it. It takes a deep level of introspection to understand our allotted privileges but also understand the ways in which the Model Minority Myth systematically oppressed our communities as well.
The Model Minority Myth ravages numerous demographics within our own communities-- that being Women, Muslims, Sikhs, LGBTQI+ folks, and various others who do not fit into the perfect mold that western society has constructed for various communities of color. As we think about how we as Brown folk have actively accepted these molds, we should also take into account how we have generationally been fed colonial ideas. It is deeply important for us to look at ourselves and our communities through our own eyes. Shedding the internalized white gaze is the way in which we can move toward understanding ourselves and our place in the world.
Author's Note: This article provides a very brief, very high level introduction to the model minority myth. This is no way minimizes the systematic racism, abuse and dynamics that members of the Black community experience (i.e. Black men/women, LGBTQ+ folks, children, etc.). Rather, this article serves as a starting point for the conversation.
Images by: Non-Resident, Portuguese Gravity, Priscilla Du Preez, Mark Decile and Melanie Kreutz.