Lifting the veil on conditional whiteness: A wake-up call to Asian Americans still holding on to the Model Minority Myth

An image of Trump's notes at a press conference wherein the word "corona" is crossed out and replaced with the word "Chinese". (Photo credit: Getty)

By Guest Contributor: Dorothy He

Over the past few months, many non-Black Asian Americans across the country watched as our racial status began shifting, after years of living within and sometimes even openly accepting the confines of the Model Minority Myth. Several of these “positive” stereotypes have long been passively or even actively accepted by many in the Asian American community, such as the ones perpetuated by Andrew Yang during his presidential campaign — for instance, the idea that all Asians are doctors, are smart and like math, and won’t speak out or cause trouble. Such stereotypes have not only caused untold damage to the well-being of Asian Americans and stymied attempts at solidarity within our communities and in relation to other communities of color, but they never offered any genuine protection of our status or proof of our “Americanness” to begin with.

Those who trusted in the power of conditional whiteness to protect Asian Americans harbored a belief that a stable income, a respectable profession, and a low profile could somehow protect us from racist and completely unfounded attacks. They are wrong. Conditional whiteness is dangerous precisely because of its roots in white supremacy vis-à-vis capitalism; ultimately, it weaponizes people of color against their own communities by making individuals complicit in perpetuating racism and exhibiting dominance over other nonwhite bodies — in particular, Black and Brown bodies — in their journey to reach the American Dream.

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