The term “model minority” was established back in 1966 in The New York Times as a way for sociologist William Petersen to describe the Asian American community. According to Peterson, through hard work and dedication, the Asian American community reached success in the United States despite the odds against ethnic minorities. Sounds like a good compliment, right? Well a closer look may have you thinking otherwise.
Many scholars believe that the “model minority myth” was created for very specific reasons. First, the term was created during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement and many believe this term was an effort to show the African American community (who was fighting for equal rights) that success was possible if one simply cooperates peacefully. Secondly, the term encouraged Asian Americans to stay out of the Civil Rights Movement and remain “peaceful” if they wanted to keep the model minority title. At the time, the Asian American community had less of a history of political activism in fighting racism. Third, Petersen claimed Asian American values prevented them from becoming a “problem minority.” Needless to say, this sought to divide the minorities and create animosity.
According to ModelMinority.com, contrary to the suggested praise that the stereotype presents, the “[model minority] thesis not only served to silence Asian American claims for redress from continuing racial discrimination, but often exaggerated and recast Asian American success stories as foreign threats.” It served as a mechanism of “divide and conquer” amongst ethnic groups in the US.
Recently, many from the Asian Pacific Islander community challenged the model minority myth as they rallied together to show their solidarity with the African American community after the Michael Brown & Eric Garner verdicts. Marches for the “Black Lives Matter” movement were conducted on a national scale in the United States, and has even reached as far as South Korea. Fittingly, their efforts can be seen trending on Twitter under the hashtag “ModelMinorityMutiny.”
Rally in Queens, NY:
Some even draw on the inspiration of Yuri Kochiyama. Letting her story serve as a reminder that the African American struggle is not only theirs, but it is a multi-racial struggle.
The model minority mutiny doesn’t just stop with the marches and rallies. The group ChangeLab is spearheading a project called “Bringing the Model Minority Mutiny Home.” The project allows people to share their “model minority” experiences, discuss how to overcome it and provide resources for each other.