On Sept. 21, the Asian American Student Union (AASU) at Scripps College hosted an event to discuss and learn about the model minority myth. The Facebook page for the event describes the model minority myth as “the idea that all Asian Americans are high-achieving, have middle-to-high incomes, attend elite universities, and therefore all have prestigious careers.”
Although this stereotype can often be misperceived as harmless, in reality, it creates problems not only within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community but between the AAPI community and other minority groups as well.
“The model minority myth encourages wedge politics and divides communities of color by saying that if Asian Americans can achieve high socioeconomic status, then all minorities should be able to,” Kripa Mehta SC ’19, an AASU co-head who facilitated the event, said.
Mehta noted that the stereotype fails to acknowledge AAPI peoples who do not fit this “model minority” mold, especially in Southeast Asia where communities are disproportionately impoverished. Mehta also asserted that this myth “completely undermines the efforts of other communities of color.”
Shiv Pandya PO ’20 shared his personal encounters with the model minority myth, noting that his experiences as an Indian-American male may differ from those of others in the AAPI community.
“Many of my Asian friends from all across Asia have struggled, whether they be rich or poor, and a lot of times, they were told their experiences with prejudice didn't matter as much. I know how it feels to have others say my problems weren't as pressing or important since ‘Asians have it better,’” Pandya said.
Anita Ho SC ’19 attended the event and was especially interested in the relationship between the model minority myth and mental health in the AAPI communities. Ho said that society often believes that a “model minority” does not need resources like other communities of color, and noted that the “belief within AAPI groups that having a mental issue signifies weakness perpetuates the stigma of mental health in the community.”
Pandya added, “Every minority group faces unique challenges, but they all do face challenges. This isn't a competition on who gets demeaned and spit on by society more. We all suffer—uniquely, yes, but all of us.”