WHAT IS THE MODEL MINORITY MYTH?
The “model minority” myth commonly refers to East, Southeast and South Asian communities in North America that are considered to be inherently advantageous, intelligent, and hardworking compared to other minority groups.
The term “model minority” was coined in the United States by sociologist William Petersen in 1966 during the civil rights movement.
The concept of a model minority creates a false positive and a harmful narrative that reinforces systemic racism, does more damage than good, and ignores significant anti-Asian racism that many have experienced throughout Canadian history.
IT ERASES THE DIVERSITY AMONG DIFFERENT INDIVIDUALS
The model minority myth groups the experiences and sentiments of a large group of people under one misrepresented stereotype, the myth actively eliminates any kind of diversity among Asian communities and places immense pressure on individuals to fit the unreal stereotype. For example, did you know the poverty rate of Chinese Canadians is double that of white Canadians at 22 percent.
This myth actively eliminates any kind of diversity among Asian communities and places immense pressure on individuals to fit the unreal and problematic stereotype.
IT PERCEIVES ASIAN CANADIANS AS PERPETUAL FOREIGNERS
The myth groups all Asians under a single stereotype, and thus separates them from the rest of the population. Perceived as only possessing foreign qualities, the myth renders Asians as perpetual foreigners and raises questions like “But where are you from, originally?”
Did you know Canada benefits greatly from the ongoing contributions of Asian Canadians. Contributions dating back to 1884 when 15,000 Chinese labourers completed the BC section of the CPR, with more than 600 of them perishing under adverse working conditions.
IT ERASES THE RACISM FACED BY ASIANS IN THE PAST & PRESENT
Stereotyping Asians as “privileged” and “successful” ignores the historical and ongoing struggles and the systemic, and institutionalized discrimination and racism that has impacted and continues to impact these communities.
The myth disregards Canada’s problematic anti-Asian history, including the Chinese head tax, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment during World War Two, and the Komagata Maru incident.
The model minority myth completely ignores centuries of systematic, institutional, and structural discrimination and racism, which many continue to experience the impacts of to this day.
IT HINDERS THE FIGHT FOR RACIAL JUSTICE
The success of most Asian communities is often held as an example for other minorities to strive for and suggests that if other groups simply “work harder” and “get over their histories of oppression”, they too can succeed.
This is simply incorrect.
It pits people of colour against each other. The myth is a tool of colonialism and increases the obstacles of achieving racial justice and liberation for all.
Sources & Contributions
The Model Minority Myth (thepractice.law.harvard.edu)
What Is the Model Minority Myth? (learningforjustice.org)
The Model Minority Myth: Harmful for Society, Harmful for the Workplace (campaignmonitor.com)
The ‘Model Minority’ Myth Explained. What you need to know about how it has propped up anti-Asian racism in Canada (thestar.com)
Special thanks to Rose Wu, Jennifer Lu, and Hanae Tsukada for their contributions!