What Do We Win from Hatred? An insight into BLM vs. the Model Minority Myth
Updated: Mar 13
Dear Asian Youth,
This year, we have seen the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. As the movement gained mass support worldwide, emerged opposers to this cause just as widespread as its followers -- white supremacist groups making public statements in direct hostility towards BLM, or in family and friend arguments debating the meaning and the purpose of what “Black Lives Matter” truly encompasses.
It is not unknown that Asians have prejudices against other minorities. Many of our relatives and friends may even oppose and condemn BLM themselves. As a BIPOC community that is under the same shackles of white dominance as so many others, we ask ourselves, why is it so hard for our community to come together and support BLM? Why have we faced so much division this year upon the surface of this question?
We can trace these prejudices back to the infamous Model Minority Myth -- a narrative pushed upon the Asian community to portray them as impassive, agreeable, and superior in school and work. It was pushed during the 1960s that signified a dramatic change in the way Asian communities in the U.S. were treated and viewed, this reverent and respected image of the AAPI community contrasted with the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese concentration camps just years prior. Unashamedly, it was promoted in the media to essentially garner sympathy of Asian Americans and encourage assimilation lest they be stereotypes and shunned, which resulted in a sharp division in unity between the Asian American and African American communities, both of which were struggling for their rights and visibility at that point in history.
In light of the BLM movement, Gen-Z has brought significant attention to their own issues of internalized racism in their own loves, and have taken steps in the effort to dismantle something so ingrained in our community. But as we see Gen-Z tackle these issues, efforts of the youth are counteracted just as readily by older generations that fail to see the harms of this myth.
Gen-Z is significantly more open-minded, accepting, and outspoken when compared to previous generations, swept up in a sociopolitical and health crisis -- forcing us to unlearn, learn and educate each other. Racism, homophobia, transphobia fail to pass as easily they did in past years. We hold each other accountable.
Still, we see older friends and relatives oblivious to the implications of the Model Minority Myth. They pride themselves in this false notion that they are the “model” racial group in the face of Western society, that they are inherently smarter than any other minority, that they are the ones who remain calm, agreeable, and impassive. They find themselves stuck in this false narrative and pressure themselves in holding themselves to it, even though these stereotypes are in no way accurate nor fulfillable. In these unattainable standards, Asians harbor feelings of superiority and can tint their image of other minorities. In believing that they are the “model minority,” any other racial group can seem inferior, subordinate. Here, we see the risks of ignorance towards the harms of the Model Minority Myth -- the possibility of Asians wanting to fulfill it, instead… laying foundations for the pitting of the Asian community against other minorities and the enforcement of racist mindsets.
The Model Minority Myth pits minorities against each other and creates division between those oppressed under the same institutions and the workings of white supremacy. It is counteractive towards the unity in Asian communities and other racial groups and harbors hostility in Asians towards “lesser” or “inferior” races, reflecting the ideas that the Model Minority Myth enforces. As Asians look upon themselves as the “model” or the “better” race, it only sets the stage for them to look down upon other racial groups as not successful, agreeable, or intelligent as them.
There has been noticeable racism in the Asian community against Black people. Asians look at the Black community of individuals that are “inherently” violent, and stray away from those that look “suspicious” and have prejudices and preconceived notions about Black men, in particular, above any other demographic. Stemming from systematic racism from slavery and forward, the myth of Black racial inferiority has manifested itself in the beliefs and everyday practices of Asians worldwide. Being violent is not something that is inherited genetically. It is a trait that is nurtured through one’s environment, and is definitely not just limited to the Black community. Generalizing an entire racial group off a single stereotype enforces racism and racial profiling, contributing even further to the systemic and systematic struggles that Black people face every single day.