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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Basic Human Decency Should Be Granted Freely: In Response to Andrew Yang

Former presidential candidate, Andrew Yang (Photo credit: Getty / Stephen Maturen)

By Guest Contributor: Anouk Yeh

On April 1, the Washington Post released an op-ed written by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, addressing the increased Anti-Asian sentiment in the nation. In the article, Yang stated that in order to combat the rising xenophobia in the nation, Asian Americans across the nation needed to embrace their “American-ness in ways [they] never have before,” arguing that Asian Americans needed to prove their allegiance to the country in order to be viewed as “not the virus.”

Within hours of the article’s release, Yang was met with immense backlash from the Asian American community. Actor Simu Liu, who is set to play the first ever Asian-American marvel superhero, and writer and comedian Jenny Yang both took to twitter to express their disappointment with Yang’s statement, with Liu calling   “a slap in the face.”

This disappointment was no understatement, because to Asian American communities across the nation, Yang was not just a politician. Rather, he was a figurehead for the movement to increase Asian representation within higher political government. Although his campaign didn’t successfully make it into the White House, Yang was able to help blaze a starting trail for Asian American leaders to take the national stage.

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Andrew Yang’s Problematic Reinforcement of the Model Minority Myth

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang at the Sept 12 Democratic primary debate in Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Tonight, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Yang joined the nine other top Democratic presidential candidates on the debate stage at Texas Southern University. A noteworthy moment for Asian Americans, Yang remains one of the first Asian Americans in history to run a national campaign for the presidency.

That’s why it is all the more problematic that Yang routinely leans upon Model Minority stereotypes of Asian Americans to advance his candidacy. As early as last year, Yang routinely framed himself as qualified to be president because he is a “smart Asian” who is “good at math” — a classic Model Minority trope reminiscent of the infamous Time magazine cover that popularized model minority stereotypes for a generation of Americans. Tonight, Yang invoked a different facet of the Model Minority Myth when he quipped in response to a question on healthcare that “I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.

The Model Minority Myth has stood at the root of a good deal of anti-Asian racism and oppression. Yet, Yang is unconcerned by the many ways that the Model Minority Myth hurts Asian Americans and other people of colour. Instead, Yang sees Model Minority caricatures of Asian Americans as something to lean into and to laugh at, and he even sells math-branded Yang swag in his campaign store.

I can’t but wonder if Andrew Yang sees Model Minority stereotypes as a joke, then who’s really laughing with him?

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The Illusion of the Asian American Dream

Elaine Chao

Asian Americans are often lauded as a “model minority” that has achieved complete acceptance into American society. But silent and pervasive racism has shown that American identity was never meant to include people who look like me.

By Guest Contributor: Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director, NAPAWF

Throughout Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), I have reflected on the stories I’ve heard about the deeply frustrating lack of visibility of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). While many Asian Americans are often referred to as “model minorities” whose stereotyped high achievements provide them a proxy to whiteness and American identity, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. We continue to suffer from microaggressions, are still seen as perpetual foreigners, and have repeatedly been denied the ability to shine beyond the stereotypes of our communities — which were shaped by decades of American history and foreign policy. So on the last day of APAHM, I’m still thinking about why we are still striving to figure out where and how we fit into the fabric of this country. Because oftentimes, we have to fight just to be seen as American.

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The Sunken Place and the Model Minority Myth

By: R. K. Guha

I sometimes wish I could go back in time and be my own guardian angel. I would reach down into that dark place of the Model Minority Myth and pull the younger me out. I would tell myself, “Baby, you got this. The best thing you can do is to ignore these goras.”

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2017’s Get Out is uniquely about the Black experience in America. Everything from stand-your-ground, to backyard auctions, to the performances of white liberal guilt by Rose’s family and friends are authored from real life experience; this is no more true than with the construction of the Sunken Place, which serves as a metaphor for Black helplessness in the face of white supremacy.

As an Indian-American watching Get Out, I knew there was something about the Sunken Place that felt analogous to my own experiences growing up in America. I recalled a similar “expectation” to acquiesce to whiteness, and the tool used to keep people like me subservient: The Model Minority Myth. Like the Sunken Place, the Myth is about white control over Asian Americans. As with racism of any kind, it is about shifting goal posts and double standards.

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