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Asian American and Pacific Islander Anti-Discrimination Resources

The "Model Minority" Myth and White Supremacy

Definition

"Model Minority is a label mainly attached to Asian Americans in contemporary America. It refers to the successful achievements of Asian Americans in especially socioeconomic status and education, despite their history of hardship and racial discrimination since the early nineteenth century. The term was coined in 1966 by William Petersen, who praised Japanese American efforts for assimilation [...]. However, the seemingly benign and celebratory idea of Asian success has been criticized as “mythologizing” Asian Americans. While, as a model minority, Asian Americans are praised as industrious and hardworking, they are viewed as silent, docile, and politically indifferent. The so-called Asian value of a self-reliant work ethic is often quoted as an explanation to Asians’ reluctance to take governmental grant and support. Moreover, the image of hardworking Asians more often than not ends up with demeaning remarks about Asian workaholics, who are claimed to lack emotions and social skills, as well as being politically inactive and nonparticipatory."

"Model Minority." In The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Asian American Literature, edited by Guiyou Huang, 702-703. Vol. 2. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2009. Gale eBooks (accessed April 2, 2021). https://library.umd.umich.edu/verify/fwd.php?https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3255500190/GVRL?u=lom_umichdearb&sid=GVRL&xid=455b7145.

White Supremacy's Role

It's important to note that this particular myth is created not only to oppress the AAPI community, but also to create a divide between and prevent collective efforts among other minority groups. It is an effort perpetuated by and for white supremacy. In A Critical Review of the Model Minority Myth in Selected Literature on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Higher Education, it's stated that "Many publications on AAPIs in higher education mentioned the [Model Minority Myth] MMM and neglected to account for the original purpose of the [Model Minority Myth] MMM—to maintain anti-Black racism and White supremacy."

The "Model Minority" Myth

The following video provides examples of the Model Minority Trope utilized in film and TV.


The following clip from John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight", delves into how White Supremacy created and benefits from the Model Minority Myth.


The following TEDx Talk, "Alice Li draws from research studies and her personal experiences to challenge the two-dimensional identity outlined by the model minority myth."


This final episode in the first season of PBS's Asian Americans series provides examples of the Model Minority Myth. 

Books related to the myth of the "Model Minority"

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