Model Minority Myth Magnifies Misunderstanding


Nate Taylor

The model minority myth hurts both Asian Americans and other minorities, which can further perpetuate racism against Asian Americans and racism against underprivileged minority groups, downplaying the chances of other minorities to pursue an acceptable societal status and creating a rigid set of regulations of how an Asian must act in the community.

The model minority myth, while seemingly harmless, can be detrimental to the Asian American community, as well as other minority groups by creating an expectation that Asian Americans are considerably more successful, producing a facade that racism in America is not at fault for the struggles of minorities as a whole. 

They created the model minority myth to disenfranchise further those groups and say that Asians are able to make it and you aren’t, the problem isn’t America, the problem is you.

— Virgina Nguyen, social studies teacher

“They created the model minority myth to disenfranchise further those groups and say that Asians are able to make it and you aren’t, the problem isn’t America, the problem is you,” social studies teacher Virginia Nguyen said. “That’s how they use the group of Asians, the community of Asian Americans, as a tool to further perpetuate racism and further perpetuate inequities.”

With the rise of social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, challenging the racism that the model minority myth has produced becomes increasingly important. Junior Cinta Adhiningrat is Creative Director of a chapter of the nonprofit organization “Dear Asian Youth,” focused on uplifting marginalized communities and people of color, commonly referred to as POCs.

“A concept that has been repeated is POC solidarity where groups of Asians and groups of Black people have been coming together for racial equality,” Adhiningrat said. “At the same time, the model minority myth is setting apart some Asians who do not believe in supporting the BLM movement.”

The myth creates a belief or expectation that Asian Americans are “better” than other minorities, which can put other minorities down and cause internalized racism to be ingrained into Asian American culture, as well as cause many Asian Americans to be more negatively impacted mentally by failure. A study done by the National Latino and Asian American Study found that Asian Americans have a 17.30% overall lifetime rate of any psychiatric disorder, yet are less likely than Whites to seek help.

Considering that not all Asian countries are rich and some have high poverty rates, the myth also downplays the struggles of many Asians and creates an economic and social divide between many Asian communities. According to a study done by UCLA, many Asian American groups, including Vietnamese, Korean, and Filipino, had significantly lower median incomes than white households in Los Angeles, a region known for its large Asian community.

“There’s a lot of high expectations set for [Asian Americans] because of stereotypes that they are always good at math or super smart or going to go to a good college,” sophomore Lindsey Ko said. “I think mostly it’s because when American people see a group of Asians that are smart, they just assume that all Asians are smart.”

It is important to understand the perspectives behind the belief of minority superiority, as it is the first step in fueling change towards an equal and fair community. At the same time, we must understand the model minority myth’s destructive effects and take steps against prejudiced thoughts and actions that will affect our perception of Asians and other minority groups, including Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic and Latinx communities.