Reporter's Notebook

Mulling Over 'The Model Minority'
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In the notes seen below, Atlantic readers discuss and debate how Asian Americans are often referred to as the “model minority” when compared to other ethnicities in the U.S.

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Mulling Over 'The Model Minority,' Cont'd

A reader bristles at the term:

I thoroughly dislike when Asian Americans are compared to African Americans/Blacks. Perhaps Asians are more comparable to Latinos, who are able in some cases to “pass” for white (ex. Italian). African Americans/Blacks carry the weight of the reputation of their ethnicity wherever they go. They can seldom “pass.”

I know from first-hand experience that even when you do not act in accordance to your race’s stereotype, there will be some white people who wonder why you don’t, and they will look at you as though you are some sort of defective person or oddity. I’ve been told that I do not sing like a black person because I prefer pop music, don’t “act” like a black person, don’t talk like a black person. It is infuriating.

The reason I find the comparison highly insulting is that African Americans/Blacks, unlike Asians, have endured hundreds of years of discrimination (and torture) of a physical and psychological nature.

Japanese Americans in spinach fields at Tule Lake Relocation Center, CA, on Sept 8, 1942 (Wikimedia)

A reader quotes from a recent piece by Alia:

The highly selective UC campuses are known, sometimes bitterly, to serve especially disproportionate numbers of Asian students; Asians famously make up half of the undergraduates at UC Irvine, for example, which was No. 1 on Leonhardt’s list. By highlighting economic diversity in lieu of its race-based cousin, this year’s Upshot and Washington Monthly rankings may support arguments that the state’s ban on race-blind admissions discriminations has shortchanged blacks and Latinos in favor of whites and Asians. While that may very well be true, the rankings offer an opportunity to highlight nuances to the “model minority” stereotype and the ways in which it hinders economic equality in education.

The irony being the people most “bitter” about the Asian-American students are so-called progressives who claim to care about minority groups.

Why is Asian achievement in the UC system so quickly dismissed? As any reader of The Atlantic knows, these Asian kids live in a country founded on “white supremacy,” a country where “white privilege” rules and where they experience microaggressions. You would think people who claim to care about minorities would celebrate this accomplishment. But they actually describe the UC system—a system where whites are underrepresented relative to the white population of California—as a system with an admissions policy based on “white privilege.” They must go through a lot of mental gymnastics to come to that conclusion.

A countervailing view from another reader:

Asians don’t go through nearly as many microaggressions as other minorities. They aren’t put down and treated as if they’re thugs or criminals purely because of skin color. They also haven’t been nearly as oppressed as other groups. There are still African Americans alive from the time when they weren’t allowed to vote or go to good colleges.

Asians in California are typically pretty wealthy, and the average Asian family might even be wealthier than the average white family.

That’s true, according to this data from the Public Policy Institute of California: