model minority, my ass

A.R. Sakaeda has a really interesting essay over at the Chicago Tribune blog about Asian Americans, the model minority stereotype, and how that perception is a complete load of crap: Rejecting the model in 'model minority'. She touches on a lot of issues that many of us can probably relate to, and a lot of the ideas I grappled with when I created this very website (I should note, I get name-checked near the end of the piece). I liked this part:
When people talk about the model minority, "model" is code for never making other people feel uncomfortable about racism. "Model" means not being like all those other troublesome people of color. It means keeping your mouth shut and your eyes lowered. It means smiling brightly and nodding along. Yes, sir! Whatever you say, sir! It means never complaining.

Members of the model minority often are used to shame other people of color. They can do it, why can't you? If you would only have those same close-knit families. If you only valued education more. If you only worked harder. Racism is a thing of the past.

Holding up Asian Americans as a model divides communities of color, making it difficult for us to see our commonalities.

"Model" too often means you don’t have to ride in the back of the bus. You can ride near the front of the bus, but you have to be very, very careful never to say anything about the people forced to ride in back, as writer David Mura notes. But being silent means being complicit and I can not afford to be either.

Being the model minority means never speaking out against racism. I once launched into a tirade against white co-workers who repeatedly used the N-word. Perhaps the reason they felt free to use it was because they considered me to be more like them. But after my tirade, they probably presumed I was part black. The angry Asian American isn't a stereotype, at least not yet. But we are out there and racism makes us angry.
She hits the nail on the head. Part of the problem with the model minority image is that it paints Asian Americans as a quiet, passive, compliant community. We're supposed to be the good ones, refusing to rock the boat and unwilling to speak out and stand up for social justice. What's worse, there are Asian Americans among us who have bought into this myth. It's this perception—of apathy and complacency, basically—that allows the injustices to occur in the first place. Thankfully, some are willing to get a little dirty, and angry. Model minority, my ass.

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