The Model Minority Myth and Interracial Group Tensions

The model minority myth has been a widely discussed sociological phenomenon, but like everything discussed at ARCC, it is a small piece of a much larger picture. To reiterate, the model minority myth is the myth that Asian-Americans are the most successful ethnic group in America compared to the general population. This myth, aside from putting pressure on Asian-Americans to overperform, has also been used as a tool to create discord and separation between minority groups in America. 

By designating one group as being “better” than the others, a sense of competition and comparison is created. And by pointing to a minority as being the model that others should aspire to, those in positions of power are able to use said minority in order to discriminate against other minority groups. This myth ignores the historical pressures that have led to what we see today interpreted as proof of the model minority, such as ignoring the higher incarceration rates in black and brown communities as well as the varied access to education and opportunities in impoverished communities that push certain groups out and certain groups in on the path to higher education and higher paying jobs. The model minority myth also effectively dismisses the struggle and trauma of the Asian-American population—after all, they made it to the top, so they must not struggle as much as other minorities, right?

The model minority myth is just another expression of the overall myth of a meritocratic America, where if you just work hard enough, you’ll surely make it. This erases the sociopolitical barriers that make it harder for certain groups to accrue the same resources and opportunities as others in more privileged positions, and creates strife in the minority community. In our mission to dismantle racism, we hope to dismantle the barriers between minority groups so that as a community, we can fight back against injustices and obstacles that bar us from opportunities that others have easy access to. 

For more reading, please consider:

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/04/19/524571669/model-minority-myth-again-used-as-a-racial-wedge-between-asians-and-blacks

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/10/16/the-effects-of-seeing-asian-americans-as-a-model-minority/model-minority-seems-like-a-compliment-but-it-does-great-harm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8384115