Like most kids, my world view and political analysis was almost entirely informed by my parents. I grew up with a curious sense of how race worked in the world. To my dad, we were on top of the racial hierarchy. His idea of racial order in the United States put other People of Color at the bottom, followed by white people, and he had Asian Americans at the top of the list. He would take great pride in being a “model minority.” In his eyes, Asian Americans are the smartest of any group, the hardest working, and the most desirable employees. For many years, I bought into this. My life was consumed with living up to the ideals of being an Indian-American woman. I was a part of my school’s state winning math team, I excelled in school, and I spent my weekends taking classical Indian music and dance lessons.
Yet independence and skepticism painted me a new picture. Through the eyes of a public health class, I began to question the idea that Asian Americans were thriving in this country. It wasn’t until I happened upon writers such as Angry Asian Man and Helen Zia that I began to develop a clearer picture of what it meant to be an Asian American. Our communities are plagued by unemployment, a broken immigration system, racist micro-aggressions, and the pressure of assimilation.
Asian-Americans need a liberation that comes in two parts: one that liberates all people from the oppressive systems in our world, and another that liberates us from ourselves and from the model minority myth. Our willingness, as women and men, to be compliant in the face of oppressive forces is not going to earn liberation.
Guest Blogger: Mansi Kathuria
Just ike the vast majority of people in this country, Asian Americans are suffering due to the ongoing economic crisis, and this suffering is exacerbated by various forms of racial inequality. But this can be hard to see, thanks to the “model minority” stereotype. In addition, most Asian Americans (like most Americans in general) want to chart a way out of the crisis that leads to a far more equal society based on a more robust commitment to the common good. But, in this age of austerity, mainstream politics is going in the opposite direction.
Many Asian Americans are suffering due to a system that regularly violates their sense of social justice. And yet, Asian Americans do not respond by stepping powerfully into the political arena to challenge the status quo. It is also part of the “model minority” stereotype that we aren’t supposed to get angry at the injustices we face, and that we aren’t suited for positions of leadership, especially political leadership. These are messages that we internalize and allow to oppress us. The only way to prove these messages false is by acting in ways that make them false. We need powerful leaders of Asian descent to step out into the political realm and prove false the image of the Asian American who is smart and hardworking, but docile and apolitical. At the same time, it’s important that we not segregate ourselves off into an isolated racial interest group. On our own we would never be able to address the systemic sources of the injustices that we face, along with all other working class people in this country.
Guest Blogger: Toby Chow