Asian Americans are not your model minorities. We are not your wedges. We are not your license for guilt-free anti-blackness. We are not your proof that President Donald Trump isn’t racist.
Earlier this week, The Washington Post broke the news that President Trump had made unfathomably racist and crude remarks about Black and Brown immigrants during a meeting with (mostly Republican) congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House. The meeting’s agenda: immigration reform and the drafting of legislation to protect Dreamers from Trump’s ending of DACA.
Trump reportedly became angry when discussion turned to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and several African countries, and used crude, explicit language to describe those nations.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to [several people briefed on the meeting], referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.
Trump later suggested that America should invite fewer immigrants from Haiti, and more from countries like Norway. Trump’s remarks have been roundly denounced as racist by Democrats and Republicans alike, with only a handful of Rightwing partisan hacks daring to defend the president on the breath-takingly racist, anti-Black comments.
One such partisan hack is Carrie Sheffield, a journalist and sometime conservative CNN commentator. On a segment hosted by Don Lemon last night, Sheffield defended Trump’s remarks, suggesting that they weren’t racist because Trump “would welcome immigrants from Asia.” (The comments begin at 4:42 in the clip below, and the talking point is repeated again at 10:20.)
“That said,” said Sheffield, “I have not heard said at the table that the president — according to this second-hand information as well — said he would welcome immigrants from Asia. So he is open to people coming from other countries… So this really has to do more with the broader question is ‘is our immigration in this country based on skills? Is it based on merit? Or, is it based on natural disasters? Is it based on war?'”
Former White House aide Keith Boykin, seated next to Sheffield, is rightfully dumbfounded by these comments. He repeatedly calls Sheffield out on her invocation of the Model Minority Myth and pointing out that Asian Americans don’t find these stereotypes flattering.
Indeed, we don’t. More importantly, we take serious issue with how some like Sheffield use the false and cliched trope of the Model Minority Myth to both legitimize and reinforce anti-blackness.
Sheffield suggests that because Trump supposedly would be amenable to increasing the number of Asian Americans, his ‘merit-based’ immigration plan is not racist. Implicit in this reasoning is two faulty assumptions: 1) that Asian Americans are high-achieving model minorities, and 2) that the presence of Asian Americans serves as an inoculation from racism.
In a week of breathtakingly racist remarks, Carrie Sheffield’s comments rank pretty danged high. (And this is a week when Jesse Watters — of Watters’ World: Chinatown Edition — is being called upon to judge the etiquette of racist remarks.) Sheffield invokes stereotypes to generalize Asian Americans as high-achievers, forgetting that Asian Americans are diverse and that many individuals — as well as Asian American ethnic groups — do not have the high socioeconomic outcomes asserted by the Model Minority Myth. Sheffield pretends that Asian American immigrants arrive in America primarily through “skills” or “merit”, forgetting that one-fifth of Asian Americans enter the country as refugees. In fact, only 20% of Asian immigrants receive work- or school-based visas; the vast majority of Asian American immigrants enter as family members of immigrants or US citizens, refugees, asylees, or as part of the diversity lottery program. Asian Americans are not the Right’s poster children for merit-based immigration. More than two-thirds of Asian Americans are first-generation immigrants. Trump’s assaults on immigration policy — including his ending of DACA; his proposed restrictions on H-1B visa renewals; his desired elimination of H-1B spousal work authorization; his mass round-ups of undocumented immigrants for deportation, which has included political targeting of Southeast Asian American refugees; and his Justice Department’s unprecedented reversal of naturalization certificates resulting in a loss of citizenship for at least one Asian American — are disastrous and will hurt the Asian American community.
Nonetheless, Sheffield calls attention to Trump’s enthusiasm for the mythical Asian American model minority immigrant as evidence that he is not racist against Blacks. Never mind that the Model Minority Myth is rooted in anti-blackness, and that it has been historically used by conservatives as a cudgel against Black political uplift. Sheffield’s use of the Model Minority Myth is well in keeping with its anti-Black origins: she uses it to cast doubt upon the anti-blackness of a man who called African nations “shithole countries”; who questioned if we could deny entry to Haitians (who are Black) in favor of Norwegians (who are White); who once suggested that Haitians “all have AIDS“; and who believes that Nigerians live in huts. Never mind, of course, that a system that fails to value Black lives can never truly value Asian American lives either.
Asian Americans will not be used in this fashion. We are not your well-behaved trophy pets. We are not your shields from racism. Trump’s racism does not stop at the borders of Asian America. Whether or not Trump would welcome immigrants from Asia, he still disparages us, mocks us for our accents, threatens Asian leaders, engages in racialized sexual harassment and microaggressive abuse against Asian American women, and perpetuates toxic masculinity’s disdainful mistreatment of Asian heteromasculinity.
Asian Americans are not your model minority, Conservative America. We didn’t vote for Trump, and we will not be used by your conservative cohort to reinforce your regressive, anti-Black wedge politics. We do not want your conditional privilege. We will not play nice. We will not behave and we will not do as we are told.
You can take your anti-blackness and your anti-Asian racism back to your shithole party. We are not here for you, and we will not help you make America White again.