of Asian-Americans ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (-- by Andrew Chin) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ORIGINS The term "model minority" was first used inprint by sociologist William Peterson in an article titled "Success Story: Japanese American Style" published in the `New York Times Magazine' in January 1966.
Peterson concluded that Japanese culture -- with its "family values" and strong "work ethic" -- enabled the Japanese Americans to overcome prejudice and to avoid becoming a "problem minority".
A second article similarly describing Chinese Americans appeared in U.S. News and World Report on December 26, 1966.
The myth of Asians as a "model minority" (based on the success image of a few elite individuals) has a very negative and debilitating effect on the general population of Asian Americans.
Several mental health concerns and psychological afflictions, such as threats to cultural identity, powerlessness, feelings of marginality, loneliness, hostility and perceived alienation and discrimination remain un-redressed and hidden under the veneer of the "model minority myth".
Both social and psychological forces to conform to the "model minority" stereotype place an inordinate amount of pressure on Asian Americans ...
The "model minority" thesis gained currency throughout the decade as an argument to discredit the Civil Rights Movement.
By attributing Asian American successes to Asian "culture and values", the stereotype allowed commentators to downplay the significance of racial discrimination as an explanation for the underprivileged status of other minorities.
Of course, Asian Americans continued to face racial discrimination, even as those who beat the odds were `deployed' as arguments against reform.
THE YELLOW PERIL By the 1970s, the "model minority" thesis had rooted itself so firmly into mainstream perceptions of the Asian American community that it had become a racial `stereotype'.
The thesis not only `served to silence' Asian American claims for redress from continuing racial discrimination, but often exaggerated and recast Asian American success stories as 'foreign threats'.
A `stereotype' is the imposition of an oversimplified and unfair depiction of a particular group (usually defined by ethnicity, race, class, or gender) resulting in the systematic disadvantage of members of that group and/or members of an implicit comparison class.
After America 's defeat in the Vietnam War, many Americans refused to welcome our wartime allies and innocent civilians as refugees from Southeast Asia , and instead focused on fears that they were taking over American jobs.
As the Japanese auto industry's nimble response to the energy crisis cut into Detroit's market share, anti-Asian sentiment erupted into racial hatred and even violence against Asian Americans.
A 1971 `Newsweek' article on Asian Americans as a "model minority" had a sidebar expressing White resentment of Asian American "out-Whiting the Whites" and accusing Whites of becoming soft in the face of economic competition with Asia .
THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION
The "model minority" thesis trivializes the idea that racial discrimination can deprive minorities, including Asian Americans, of fair opportunities in America , and overstates the opportunities that have actually been available to minorities, including Asian Americans. The rhetorical power of this widely accepted stereotype was not lost on the Reagan administration, which had grown uncomfortable with the societal progress minorities had made under [policies such as] affirmative action and sought to eliminate legal and governmental remedies for diffuse but systematic racial discrimination in the private sector.
The `median household income' statistic is misleading because it may be interpreted as suggesting that Asian Americans do not face economic discrimination.
The truth is that several factors more than account for the difference in median household income:
* Most Asian immigrants entered the United States under restrictive laws skewed toward highly skilled workers.
* Asian American employees have lower status and less income than comparably educated Americans of every other race.
* 59 percent of Asian Americans live in California , Hawaii and New York , all states with far higher per capita income and costs of living than the national average.
The 1980 Census `undercounted' Asian Americans, predominantly those living in poor communities.
* Spouses and children work in Asian American households in far greater numbers, and for longer hours, than in white families.
The distribution of Asian American household income is bi-modal.
The percentage of Asian American families living below the poverty level far exceeds the national average.
Despite this, social services often exclude Asian Americans because of the 'stereotype' of "success".
Aided by the mainstream press, President Reagan evaded scrutiny of his administration's 'race policies' by repeatedly citing misleading statistics on Asian American household income.
Throughout the 1984 presidential campaign, including a February 23 White House meeting with Asian American leaders, Reagan repeatedly pointed out that the 1980 median household income for Asian Americans ($42,250) was higher than the national average ($36,920).
Meanwhile, articles in --`Newsweek' ("Asian Americans: 'A Model Minority,'" 1982; "The Drive to Excel," April 1984), --`The New Republic' ("America's Greatest Success Story: The Triumph of Asian Americans," July 1985), --`Fortune' ("America's Super Minority," November 1986), --`Time' ("The New Whiz Kids," August 1987), and --`Parade' ("Why They Excel," 1990) prominently publicized the "academic successes" of Asian American youth.
A SCIENTIFIC FACT? Even during the Reagan years, the "model minority" thesis was advanced mainly as a sociological description of Asian Americans.
By the 1990s, however, the thesis had become so widely accepted that researchers began treating Asian American "success " as a `factual empirical phenomenon' -- in search of an underlying scientific explanation.
In 1994, Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein published `The Bell Curve', which argued that Asian Americans and Jews are "genetically superior" to `African Americans'.
Opponents of affirmative action cited the book as proof that most cases of alleged racial discrimination against `African Americans' are actually the result of applying neutral standards to "an inherently inferior population".
Asians tend to be located in the labor market's secondary sector, where wages are low and promotional prospects minimal.
Asian men are clustered as janitors, machinists, postal clerks, technicians, waiters, cooks, gardeners, and computer programmers; they can also be found in the primary sector, but here they are found mostly in the lower-tier levels as architects, engineers, computer-systems analysts, pharmacists, and schoolteachers, rather than in upper-tier levels of management and decision making.
While they are increasing in numbers on university campuses as students, they are virtually nonexistent as administrators.
Asian Americans are even more scarce in the
upper strata of the corporate hierarchy:
they constituted less than half-of-one-percent
of the 29,000 officers and directors of
the nation's thousand largest companies...
BUSH'S SOFT BIGOTRY
During the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush consistently responded to questions on race with a well-rehearsed riff on "the soft bigotry of low expectations".
Whether it was the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas , or continuing poverty and hopelessness in the inner cities, Bush's solution was simple and universal: set higher, "colorblind standards" for everyone, ... and 'equal opportunity' ... will follow.
("Colorblind" standards comfort Whites who want their race to be seen by American society as transparent and insignificant, neglecting the fact that people-of-color do not have that option.)
To minorities, Bush's message was clear:
--"Your experiences of racial discrimination aren't real. They're just the product of your own low expectations. They're all in your head. Get over them."--
With the appointment of Elaine Chao to be his Secretary of Labor, Bush has acknowledged the centrality of the "model minority myth" to his `racial agenda'.
As the most conservative administration in nearly a century embarks on its mission to dismantle affirmative action in the workplace, Bush has ensured that the durable deception of the "model minority" stereotype will play a starring role.
OBJECTIFICATION OF ASIAN-AMERICANS: ---- AN HISTORICAL CONSISTENCY (-- Ny Malcolm Yeung)
`THE RAGING BUDDHA', 1994
For people-of-color, the United States has never been a place in which true assimilation and equality is possible.
What is meant by `assimilation' is the incorporation of a people into the fabric of a society to a point where they have become synonymous with the `dominant population'.
This sort of assimilation has never happened for any group-of-color in this nation.
One just has to look to the plight of `African Americans' in this nation to realize the truth of these words.
However, towards Asians in this country,a belief exists that they have "made it" in this society: they have equaled if not surpassed the standards set by `White' America .
Asians are, in the minds of many, "model minorities".
Any close examination of data pertaining to Asian Americans, though, will reveal that this "model minority" conception is unfounded.
Why is it then that the "model minority myth" is so prevalent in the minds of many Americans, to a degree which harbors resentment from sectors of White America ?
The answer is multifaceted and can be viewed from many perspectives
Yet if one examines this issue in a historical perspective, a pattern is established in which Asians are continually "being objectified" into some "tool" for `White' America .
This "objectification" can be linked to a pattern of "alienation" as well, such that Asians are continually being isolated from every other segment of American society (a perpetual foreigner if you will).
Thus, the "model minority myth" is a modern continuation of the standard `role' that the Asian has been `forced' into by this society.
The "model minority myth" must be exposed as a modern `tool' used as an excuse to ignore Asian problems, an example of the validity of the American Dream, a club to quiet the cries of Ethnically disempowered groups, and a means of perpetuating an alienation which can be seen as a method of disempowerment.
The idea of the Asian as a "model minority" is as pervasive as any stereotype has ever been.
The vast majority of society subscribes to the "model minority myth", and this fact is reflected in the plethora of articles involving Asians and their supposed "success".
`Newsweek' and `Time' alone, arguably the most highly circulated periodicals, have run several articles in the last decade concentrating on "the supposed `universal' success" of the Asian minority in American society.
The stories usually headline with such titles as * "Asian Americans: a Model 'Minority'" (`Newsweek'), * "The New Whiz Kids" (`Time'), * "A 'Superminority' Tops Out" (`Time'), and * "A Formula for Success" (`Newsweek').
These articles portray Asians as `an underprivileged class' of Americans who have "finally made it" and fulfilled the legendary "American dream".
Once isolated in ethnic ghettos by discriminatory laws, Asians today find few ... barriers".
Moreover, Asian Americans are portrayed as "proof positive" that `any' group can and will achieve "success" as long as they subscribe to a certain set of "model" characteristics.
In other words, Asians are set out as an example of what `other minorities' should follow by literally proclaiming that the road to minority success follows the trail "blazed" by Asian Americans.
In order to "prove" these claims, publications always present "statistics" which can 'disguise the reality of the situation'.
For instance, the December 6, 1982 `Newsweek' article "Asian Americans: The Model Minority" puts forth a statistic that the average family income of Asian exceeds that of the population by $22,075 to $20,840.
* However, this statistic fails to show the number of Asians in urban areas and the number of women working in Asian families.
* Both factors certainly add to the inflated family income statistic.
Furthermore, the 1980 Census (the basis for the `Newsweek' statistics) included an estimated 15% undercount for Asian Americans which inflated further the Asian family income as the 15% missed were probably the poor English illiterate in Chinatown slums.
In addition to economic statistics, certain characteristics are always singled out, and these characteristics invariably involve working-hard-and-not-complaining; i.e. , the perfect nerd.
In fact, if an examination of the characteristics of
the "model minority" is made, one will realize that
"the traits" pointed out `are just as dangerous'
as "the results" of these traits --
Asian Americans' supposed "success".
CONSTRUCTING THE "MODEL"
What exactly then are these "model traits" which `all' Asians seem to have, and what is it exactly that defines the "model minority" in particular?
Well, the first answer to that question is that no exact answer exists; rather certain `general notions' exist as to what a "model minority" is.
---- The "model minority" is `always' a-hard-worker.
In fact, they seemingly do nothing but work". For the most part, [they] end up ... working too hard to bother about their image".
---- The "model minority" also values and excels at education;
"[Their] most sacrosanct value is education".
---- Furthermore, the "model minority" is sometimes portrayed as `genetically superior' which is another reason for educational "success";
for instance, even `Science', a well respected magazine, ran an article on one aspect of the "model minority myth" (* "Chinese Lack Delinquency").
Furthermore, several noteworthy scientists including Arthur Jensen, a Berkeley psychologist; J. Phillippe Ruston, a psychologist at University of Western Ontario in Canada; and William Shockley, the inventor of the transistor have made statements to the effect that Asians are `genetically superior'.
---- The "model minority" also `never complains'--he/she will just `work harder' which will pay its own dividends in the end.
By `not complaining', they also `simplify' their lives and thus "succeed" even more.
Also, rather than complain to others, "model minorities" will rely on each other and through this reliance find strength and succeed".
Language difficulties, limited job opportunities and fear of assimilation ...keep them together ... without access to health and social services ... The inevitable result: a new Amerasia ..".
---- The "model minority" is also reported as having a "strong family structure" in which both parents are stern but wise and caring.
The family will keep him/her out of trouble and thus develop a sense of responsibility in the "model minority".
---- Furthermore, all "model minorities" are portrayed as `economically successful.'
Such personalities as Connie Chung are constantly used as "proof" for this `ideal'.
---- And finally, model minorities `do not like fun' or `do not have time for it.'
As a result of these media-established characteristics, "model minorities" have supposedly "succeeded" by now having a `higher' educational success rate and economic success rate `than their Caucasian brethren'.
Asians are far more influential than their numbers, scorning the label of "model minority" even as they put the bulk of their efforts into `working hard' to "prosper".
---- Essentially, it seems as if Asian Americans have thus "eliminated all their problems" ... since they have "out-Whit[ed] the Whites".
So far, the `image' put forth by the "model minority" is "seemingly positive".
So what are the dangers involved in this "model minority" image, especially since these characteristics are so 'amazingly admirable'?
The danger lies in the fact that these images are distinctly untrue and can thus be used in a manner which cannot be checked.
---- The Asian American community has NOT achieved all that has been claimed, and this fact needs to be recognized so that improvements can be made. ---- By living under an image which claims "perfection", Asian American problems are often glossed over and ignored because no one knows that they truly exist not only on a societal level, but on a federal level as well, as Asians lose out on minority improvement programs.
Other problems such as economic and political equality are never addressed either, and problems with Asian youth are proliferating as well.
Another problem arises from the societal resentment brought upon Asians which only succeeds in the alienation of many different Asian Ethnic groups in the United States .
The most pressing problem though is the fact that Asians themselves are beginning to believe the "model minority myth" which results in their incapacitation as effective community leaders.
The "model minority myth" allows the government to overlook Asian problems for many may not even realize that any exist.
Arthur Fletcher, the chair for the 1990 Civil Rights Commission on Asian Pacific Islanders, wrote in a letter to President Bush,
"Asian Americans suffer widely the pain and humiliation of bigotry and acts of violence.... They also confront institutional discrimination in numerous domains, such as places of work and schools, in accessing public services, and in the administration of justice".
Furthermore, the report itself states that
"this stereotype leads federal, state, and local agencies to overlook the problems facing Asian Americans, and it often causes resentment of Asian Americans within the general public".
For instance, from 1972-1977, only 2 million dollars (0.8%) of 213 million was given to Asian American groups from OMBE, a federal group intended to implement improvement programs for minorities.
And, in 1980, Asian Americans became `ineligible for minority classification' when applying for loans under the Small Business Association (a federal organization).
Bilingual educational funds and voting material for Asians have never been enacted; university admission policies have changed with regard to Asians; expectations for immigrants based upon "model minority myth's" adversely affect them; and Asians are `expected' to fulfill the "model minority" characteristics to the point of being labeled "the quiet people" by George Bush.
The ECONOMIC SUCCESS of Asians --- which so many "model minority" articles have recently PROCLAIMED and praised --- IS UNFOUNDED as Asians do not maintain equality in the majority of economic markers.
Of course, the mean family income of Asians was measured as higher in the 1980 census, and reasons have been given for the deceptiveness of that statistic, but beyond those reasons, one must realize that the information was from the 1980 census.
THE 1980 CENSUS WAS TAKEN FOLLOWING AN UNPRECEDENTED INFLUX OF PROFESSIONALS AND HIGHLY EDUCATED IMMIGRANTS.
This professional-based population has been diluted in the 1980's by the influx of Asian political refugees, especially from Southeast Asia .
These Asian refugees are usually unskilled labor who are IMMEDIATELY EXPLOITED when they enter the country due to such things as language barriers.
The economic statistics then especially hurt this group as they are then `seen as pariahs among Asians' and are then considered lazy as `the other Asians' apparently "have made it".
Furthermore, the apparent economic success hides a very disturbing and sent phenomena the existence of a "glass ceiling," a barrier in occupational status which Asians have yet to break.
That is, representation of Asians in upper level management and management in general is below their actual representation in society; for instance, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that of the 38,000 companies which submitted a report in 1991, 5% of all professionals were Asians which is well above the 2.9% representation of Asians in the population. But, only 2% of officials and management were Asian.
Furthermore, the figure becomes even more significant when one considers that management and officials come from the ranks of the well educated of which professionals definitely are.
Thus, that Asians have a higher pool of well educated [members] than the rest of society yet at the same time are being passed over for roles as managers and officials is very surprising indeed.
The reasons for this glass ceiling are many but some people, such as Stanley Karnow, a Pulitzer prize winning reporter and author of `Rehashing the Same Old Stereotypes', believes that the glass ceiling is a result of Asian `docility and passivity' or rather `a lack of aggressiveness' which are some of the `images' projected by the "model minority myth".
Karnow has blamed the victim rather than looking to the perpetrators, for he is too blinded by the "model minority myth" to realize that `Asian passivity' may be "just an image without any foundation".
He does not even think to accost officials for "believing in false myths" or at least for "not trying to prove the veracity of such beliefs".
Joy Cherian, EEOC commissioner in 1991, instead recommends that board directors sensitive to issues of women and minorities be appointed as a method of destroying the glass ceiling barriers.
The glass ceiling barriers can also be seen with respect to political positions.
For instance, according to the Filipino Reporter, only ten of the 400,000 Asian Americans in New York City held positions in Mayor Barry Dinkins's administration.
Obviously, economic inequalities which are not widely known allow society to feel `justified' when passing over Asians in an economic sense resulting in disparities which are rarely recognized or addressed.
Other problems which have not only been created but perpetuated by the "model minority myth" are those of Asian youth.
According to the "model minority myth", Asian youth are supposedly "very family oriented, quiet, disciplined, and extremely intelligent".
Of course, "the picture painted" is that "of a perfect little drone" ----- one with a low level uniqueness and creativity.
As a result, many Asian American youths are rejected by peer groups based upon an image which is quite untrue and are also held to different standards by teachers and society in general.
Furthermore, because of the Asian belief in the value of education dating bask to Confucian times, parents also place a huge amount of pressure on children to succeed.
The result can be seen in the proliferation of Asian youth gangs, for one, and an increase in crimes by Asian youth.
In a 1992 forum on Asian affirmative action in San Francisco , five youths from a local high school (Wallenberg High) reported on incidents which were happening within Asian youth communities.
Of course, gangs were a very significant nuisance and two girls even rated them as the biggest problem facing Asian youths.
One boy, when asked why he had joined one, stated that with a gang, he could be just "one of the boys".
The `dual pressures' from parents and society have pressured the boy to meet `unfair expectations' from parents and face `societal rejection' from his peers.
The resulting `built up frustration' is released in criminal activities with other boys like him as criminal behavior can be considered one of the ultimate forms of "rebellion against `an image' which can never be fulfilled".
The most shocking report made by the children was that of two girls who set fire to a school office in order to destroy attendance records.
However, such incidents as reported ... are instead overshadowed by articles entitled "A formula for success; Asian American students win academic honors -- and cope with mixed blessing of achievement" which appeared in the April 23, 1984 issue of `Newsweek'.
Another effect of the "model minority myth" lies in the `resentment from other minority groups as well as main stream Americans' brought on by the supposed "success" of Asians.
Minority groups feel `alienated' as "success" is apparently not shared, and Mainstream society feels that "foreigners" are `robbing' them of their success
The resentment against Asians also provoke hate crimes such as the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982 and the more recent killing of Yoshihiro Hattori.
INTERNALIZING THE STEREOTYPE Perhaps the greatest danger in the "model minority myth" lies in the fact that Asians themselves are falling prey to dangers of these stereotypes.
More and more, Asians are beginning to view themselves as "model minorities" and thus take [on] a false sense of pride and security.
A New York banker claims himself as "'[y]our usual Chinese overachieving story'" (`Newsweek', Dec. 6, 1982).
This `pride and security' also leads to a sense of `contentment' with the status quo `blinding Asians to any discrimination and problems faced by their own people'.
In this view, Amy Tan, the author of Joy Luck Club, is guilty of such actions when she endorsed a book by the aforementioned Stanley Karnow by appearing on the back cover.
Dinesh D'souza, author of Illiberal Education, has made it a personal goal to glorify the "model minority myth" and oppose any methods of Asian American improvement except through "hard work".
For instance, at a west coast conference on Asian American status in the United States , D'Souza made the claim that Asian immigrants do not complain about SAT scores but "they adapt and pass the test" instead.
But, D'Souza's example excludes the very real limitations of the language barrier and the unwillingness of American society to listen to "foreigners," in other the creation of cultural barriers.
Furthermore, because racism is now so `subtle', it is very hard to recognize especially when one's mind is shut to the possibility of it existing.
This attitude is taken up especially by those Asians who themselves are successful and apparent "model minorities".
The result is a tragedy because these "successes" are the very people who are equipped to enact change.
Thus, these people who should be leading the Asian community are, in a sense, the very ones who are undermining it.
How then can a people eliminate their own problems when some of their leaders are `blinded by the hands of their oppressors'?
Perhaps more dangerous than the "model minority myth" itself is the danger of the historical context in which it is used, for the "model minority myth" is a continuation of Asians-as-`tools' for White society.
Asians began to come to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century and made significant contributions such as the building of the transcontinental railroad.
Yet, they began to draw out the baser feelings of Americans which led to violent outbursts of anti-Asian sentiment.
Eventually discriminatory laws were passed.
Most prominent is the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which prohibited Chinese labor immigration; the Exclusion Act was the first and only time that immigrants were excluded on the basis of race.
Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Asians faced constant and often violently physical discrimination.
By the 1930s, writers and the media began to play a crucial role in creating `certain images' of the Asian.
One of the most influential depictions of Asians was made through the writings of Pearl S. Buck.
Her most successful book, `The Good Earth', was a huge popular success and went far in placing the idea of the `typical' Chinese peasant in the minds of mainstream America .
From the writings of Buck, "the media was able to create an image" for Chiang Kai Shek (who, to the West, was the undisputed leader of revolutionary China ) which fit in perfectly with Buck's concept of the Chinese.
These two images spawned an interest in Chinese "culture" as evidenced by the Charlie Chan movies of the '40s and '50s, and the popularity of such writers as Jade S. Wang.
The peasants created by Pearl S. Buck in `The Good Earth' put forth an image which can only be described as the "noble peasant". Buck's `characters worked hard and were honest' (at least early in the novel).
Their strong ties to the land added an aspect of humility and simplicity which is translated into passivity and docility. Buck's characters also had a penchant for suffering without complaint.
They would just farm harder which ultimately rewarded them with prosperity.
Furthermore, the evils of "going beyond oneself" are warned against in this book as when the main character strays from the land he loses everything.
Thus, Buck's novel portrayed the aspects of the Chinese which seem so appealing to Western world now and then -- the work ethic, supposed docility, and the simplicity and humility of "knowing one's place".
As Buck created her image of the noble peasant, "the media created its image" of the noble warrior, Chiang Kai Shek who may have been the very first "model minority".
In reality, Chiang was not the most noble of people. He was actually a ruthless dictator who came to power during he early 1900s when China was in its "warlord" phase. Chiang was actually one of the most successful warlords and much of his governing staff in the 1930's was composed of former generals and military men. Furthermore, Chiang was amazingly corrupt and practically robbed his own government and people blind. With this to work, the media was still able to create an image of Chiang which reflected none of the aforementioned ruthless traits.
In fact, Chiang was portrayed as having "Chinese virtue".
However, it was his personal habits that really turned Chiang into the Chinese "hero" as he was portrayed with many of the qualities which were seen in Buck's characters.
For instance, he was definitely described as "a relentless worker".
Descriptions of his [alleged] "conversion" to `Christianity' (as if this were `the most civilizing of influences') were commonplace.
Chiang is also described as simple and "knowing his place" e ven though he has become the most "powerful" man in China .
Beyond Buck and Chiang, other images about Chinese which were similar in character were proliferated in the 1939-1941 time period. Several articles in popular periodicals appeared under such titles as "At Home in Peking," "Chinese Manners," "Coolie Democracy," "Peasantry and Gentry in China ," and "Chinese Mind".
No doubt these articles were a result of the anti-Japanese/ pro-Chinese sentiment burgeoning in the minds of many Americans.
As the Japanese rose in military might, a war with them was imminent, thus, an alliance with a major Asian country was necessary.
That country of course was China .
However, to the minds of many Americans before the late 1930s, Chinese were associated with a plethora of negatives as shown by the treatment of Chinese immigrants (hate crimes, harmful legislation, etc.) and by the popularization of such stereotypical images as Fu Manchu and various comic books which ran along the same lines.
Thus, a change in image for the Chinese was necessary so that a n American alliance with China would be viewed upon favorably.
However, the newly created images of Chinese still did not depict them as `equal to' the United States; instead, the coolie image `provoked sympathy rather than respect' which made the Japanese travesties against the Chinese seem all the more vile.
The sympathy also invoked a feeling that Chinese `needed to be protected by' the "big brother U.S".
After the war ended," the continuation of the stereotypes created were continued by the popular press".
It becomes clear that the image of the noble Chinese peasant clearly could be advantageous to the goals of American foreign policy.
During the Chinese Civil War as China was beginning to fall under the influence of communism, the Chinese peasant was being portrayed as the eventual victim of communism evoking sympathy once again for the Chinese peasants and outrage towards the communists. Thus, in the decade of 1940 to 1950, a plethora of articles were published with titles such as "These Likable Chinese" and "Public Servant".
When a full analysis of the media portrayed characteristics of Chinese are summarized, a few traits repeatedly surface.
Hard work, simplicity and humility, `knowing one's place' in society (which translates into a "political passivity"), and an emphasis on the value of education or at least intelligence are partly evidenced in each popular image of Chinese from the late 1930s to the end of 1940.
These qualities are exactly the same as those attributed to the "model minority'.
With such evidence at hand, THE LINK between the two IS most likely MORE THAN COINCIDENTAL.
Thus, when the need for a "model minority myth" arose, the stereotypes of the Chinese peasant were still fresh in the mind of the society and suited perfectly the needs of an American psyche which was being accosted for past and sent sins.
The "model minority myth" was created due to several factors but all the factors lead to an identifiable end.
Thus, the "model minority myth" became `a means to an end' and was thus `used indiscriminately' as `a tool' with which the collective guilt of white society could be assuaged.
The first SEEDS OF THE "MODEL MINORITY MYTH" germinated in the fifties in response to war injustices and societal needs and SLOWLY GREW until the term came to fruition in 1966 IN RESPONSE TO THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENTS of the day.
Almost any article could cover all the stereotypical bases, but one in particular, "Chinatown offers us a lesson" appearing in the `New York Times Magazine `on October 6, 1957, does a particularly good job of portraying the typical Chinese stereotype.
From the very beginning the tone of the article becomes glaringly evident from a picture which is displayed along with the article.
In the picture, a family is sitting around a some kind of board game in a setting which looks as if it came straight out of the popular show "Leave it to Beaver".
Everyone has westernized clothing and the room itself is very western.
In fact, if the Chinese faces were exchanged with white faces, no incongruities would even be noticed.
Thus, any Caucasian reader could immediately feel `a sense of relatedness' to the Chinese in the picture, and as a result, the Chinese talked about in the article.
Furthermore, `the content' of the article is just as" idealistic" as promised by the picture.
For instance, the article starts off by informing the reader of the `amazingly low amount of crime' in New York 's Chinatown (no youth gangs too) and accredits this to the fact that the youths have been instilled with "Chinese family values".
The Chinese family, in fact, is described as a product of 1000 years of trial and error which the communist government was then trying to break up.
The article then goes on to elucidate the characteristics of what they perceived the Chinese family characteristics to be.
Undying family loyalty and a sacrifice of individuality for the sake of the family head up the list with other things such as absolute obedience to elders done out of willingness on the child's part rather than any sort of parental impetus.
In fact, the Asian Confucian family ethics are compared to Christianity which was intended as a compliment as Christianity was the ultimate marker of morality.
Chinese in general are then described as having "patience, unflagging capacity for work, and dislike of physical violence," and children "dislike demonstrativeness but [tend] to be tolerant towards others".
The article also attributes the Chinese value on education and the children's demonstrated love for school as a large factor in keeping them out of trouble.
When trouble does occur, it is dealt with from within the community by such organizations as the Chinese Benevolent Society rather can `causing trouble outside' the community.
One final reason given for the lack of problems with Chinese youths is so ridiculous that any validity that the article may have had before is completely thrown out.
The article stated that because Chinese boys and girls do not like associating with the opposite sex; thus, the boys do not feel the need to show off for the girls and as a result get into less trouble!
BIRTH OF A MYTH
In the 1960s, for the first time, THE "MODEL MINORITY MYTH" emerged in its fullest sense.
That is, Asian Americans were depicted as having finally "made it" in every aspect of society --education and family life included.
The stories ALSO PROLIFERATED SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH THE ADVENT OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENTS and the plethora of student protests accompanying the Civil Rights movements.
The appearance of the two may seem coincidental until one actually examines the contents of some of the articles which laud praises at the so called "model minorities".
Upon examination, several factors become immediately clear: the majority of the authors were White males, the "statistics" used in the articles 'realistically' revealed very little about the situation of the minority group at hand education and crime rate were used to illustrate Asian "success" as opposed to economic and political markers; the Asians interviewed in the articles were seemingly `unsympathetic towards the Civil Rights Movements'; and the articles simply rehashed a stereotype created in the wartime era which itself was the result of Asian `objectification'.
Thus, since much of THE CONTENTS OF THESE ARTICLES WERE BASED UPON VERY LITTLE RELEVANT FACTUAL INFORMATION, the conclusion that `Asians were being used as a tool' to quiet thecries of the enraged minorities (specifically `African Americans') and, on a much more subtle level, used to assuage the "guilt" of a White America whose system was and is clearly not working for non-Whites is not entirely outrageous.
The very first "model minority" article appeared in the `New York Times Magazine' on January 9, 1966, and was titled "A Success Story, Japanese-American Style".
The article immediately begins with a resounding approval of Japanese Americans by claiming that Japanese Americans have been able to avoid becoming a "problem minority'" even though they have been "the object of color prejudice".
Furthermore, the article even goes so far as to claim "Japanese Americans are better than any other group in our society, including native-born Whites".
However, when the statistics used to analyze these claims are examined, it can be shown that they are in fact just as relevant or irrelevant as any other statistic to the state of a peoples within our society.
For instance, the article claims that 12.2% of Japanese are professionals as opposed to 11.1% of Chinese and 11.0% of Whites.
These markers were then compared to 9.2% for Filipinos and 8.6% for African Americans.
However, the article did not reveal if the statistic was for native born Japanese or for the entire population.
The Japanese were also lauded for having the lowest amount of crime among 'the Ethnics' and their low crime rate was all the more astonishing in light of the fact that they were "surrounded by Ethnic groups with high crime rates ...".
However, no comparison of crime rate to that of White America is made.
Also, the fact that language barriers and cultural restraints exist which perhaps prohibit Japanese from reporting crimes was not taken into consideration.
Besides the education statistic and the percentage of professionals, no data was offered as to why Asians were "of equal or better societal status than Whites".
Instead, the article goes on to describe all of the "traits" possessed by Japanese which allow them to transcend other "problem minorities".
Japanese have "diligence in work, combined with simple frugality ...similar to ...the Protestant ethic".
Furthermore, the all-important 'family duty' was emphasized as well.
Thus, the traits of the "model minority" hark back to a stereotype which was started in order to propel wartime propaganda.'
The lack of real statistics and the plethora of descriptions of Japanese character point to the idea that the PURPOSE OF THE ARTICLE WAS not to praise Japanese accomplishment, but instead `TO SHOW OTHER MINORITIES "HOW" TO ACT'.
Also from the tone of the article, it is again clear that the purpose was not so much to praise the Japanese as to show a White audience that 'the American system' was working and any "guilt" or responsibility concerning the 'plight of minorities' was "unfounded".
For instance, the article makes a comparison of the plight of African Americans to that of Japanese Americans but "Japanese, on the contrary, could climb over the highest barriers ..". placed before them as "[p]ride in their heritage and shame for any reduction in its only partly legendary glory ... were sufficient to carry the group through its travail".
The success stories though were not limited to just the Japanese Americans as several about Chinese Americans were also published.
However, rather than revealing any real differences in the paths to success of the two Asian American Ethnic groups, the articles instead blur the distinctions as one group could be switched out for the other and no incongruities in the articles would appear.
Once again, the dominating statistic "proving" the success of Chinese Americans was the crime rate statistic.
For instance, the article entitled "Success Story of One Minority in the United States" in `U.S. News and World Report' on Dec.26, 1966 claims that in 1965, no Chinese in the San Francisco was charged with murder, manslaughter, rape, or an offense against wife or children.
However, the article does not take into account the number of crimes unreported due to a language barrier and the number of illegal aliens who could not report anything as the result would only be trouble for themselves.
Thus, to assert that 42,600 Chinese were non-violent to a person is absolutely ludicrous.
Besides the crime rates though, no hard statistics were used, instead, allusions to education and community stability were referred to.
However, even if the assertions about education were true, that is only because Asians feel that they need to receive twice as much education to get to the same place as a White person, and often, this may be true.
Thus, low crime rates and high numbers of educated only hide the real situation of unequal economic and political attainments as compared to the rest of society and certainly as compared to White America .
The same article goes on to attribute these successes once again to the "traditional values of hard work, thrift, and morality".
Furthermore, 'the family unit' is emphasized.
The parents always watch out for the children, train them, send them to school and make them stay home after school to study.
When they go visiting, it is as a family group. A young Chinese doesn't have much chance to go out or his own chance to get into trouble.
Like the article about Japanese Americans mentioned previously, this article also uses the supposed success and characteristics of Chinese as A WEAPON TO SILENCE OTHER MINORITIES AND AS METHOD OF ASSUAGING WHITE GUILT.
For instance, the very introduction to the article broadcasts the `message that' non-Chinese `minorities are complaining instead of `working out of' their plights'.
At a time when Americans are awash in worry over the plight of racial minorities--one such minority ...Chinese-Americans, is winning wealth and respect by dint of `its own hard work'".
Furthermore, the article contains several instances of which could very easily be construed as OR ARE IN FACT A CRITICISM OF OTHER MINORITIES".
'The Chinese people here will work at anything ....the point is that ...don't sit around moaning.'"
Chinese Americans would "shock those now complaining about the hardships endured by today's negroes".
The article also portrays Chinese as a self -reliant community in that all problems are dealt with from within the community and, once again, "problems are not complained about to the Whites".
In fact, although 20,000 Chinese were residing in an eight block apartment complex in Chinatown and families of ten were found living in two bed room apartments do not move out "not because of fears of discrimination" but because "Chinese-Americans ... prefer their own people and culture ..".
Once again, such an assumption is ludicrous and completely discredits any glimpse of validity which might have been existent in the article.
Clearly, several themes from the original "model minority" stories are evident.
Although praising the Asian Americans in the U.S. may be one goal, this goal just does not coincide with the historical context in which Asians have been treated.
Instead, THE APPEARANCE OF THE "MODEL MINORITY MYTH" COINCIDES WITH THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENTS AND THUS ARE USED TO COMBAT THE CRIES OF COLORED MINORITIES by pointing to 'another minority group' which the Whites have portrayed as "having made it".
Obviously, the aforementioned two articles on Asian Americans were not the only two and certainly not the most outrageous of the "model minority" articles.
Furthermore, the Asians are portrayed as having "made it" via a certain set of characteristics which are in themselves very indicative of" the 'objectification' of Asian Americans" in this society.
These characteristics, like THE "MODEL MINORITY MYTH" ITSELF, CAN BE USED AS TOOL BY WHICH TO KEEP MINORITIES PERMANENTLY OPPRESSED.
Never is the Asian portrayed as aggressive, outspoken, or 'demanding' -- but rather it is the hard working, quiet, family, and disciplinarian characteristics which are praised.
These characteristics in and of themselves are undeniably praiseworthy, but at the same time, these characteristics do not encourage a questioning of one's surroundings but encourage an acceptance of the status quo, instead, which could be and is very detrimental to the improvement of minority conditions in the United States.
The PROLIFERATION OF THE "MODEL MINORITY" STORIES DID NOT END AFTER THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT though as the image, once placed in American society, will most likely not die out until `some sort of new image' arises.
Thus, the very nature of the "model minority myth" relegates it to being used over and over again in this society as "a tool" --indiscriminately used in many cases.
However, when evidence was given on "how" the Asians maintained a superior societal standing, ---- `the typical claims' of more schooling, lower unemployment, higher percentage of professional and technical jobs, and higher average income than whites `were cited'.
At the same time though, the returns on education were certainly lower, Chinese males earned 74% of equally educated Whites and Filipinos earned 52% of equally educated Whites.
The returns for women were below 50%.
Lower unemployment is certainly true, but a large part of the workers are `exploited' and receive below minimum wage, `no benefits', and `little job security'.
A higher number percentage of professionals may exist, but the number of Asians in upper management is well below their presentation in the population as evidenced by the glass ceiling phenomena.
Finally, the average income statistic does not state if it refers to family income or individual income which would make a very large difference as noted earlier.
Obviously, in this case, THE "MODEL MINORITY MYTH" HAS BEEN USED AS A TOOL by which to combat Asians themselves, and fur
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