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"Why The Myth Of The Model Minority Is Harmful To The Oppressed"

By Max Kantar

08 February, 2008
Countercurrents.org

The myth of the model minority, at least in recent years, has been used to explain and characterize Asian upward mobility and success in the United States. It falsely theorizes that Asians have simply worked hard and steered clear of trouble and are now reaping the benefits of their labor and patriotism. While not disregarding the great contributions that Asian-Americans have made to the modern western world, the model minority 'theory' itself, is completely unscientific and innately irrational at its very core. It ignores all socioeconomic and political factors, domestically and internationally. This crock reeks of the perverse logic that is Social Darwinism, implying and creating racial myths of fitness that have resulted in the popularization of affirmative action digression and reactionary politics reinforcing a push backwards in race relations in America today. There several problems with the model minority argument, but for the sake of brevity, only a few will be addressed here.

Anyone who is guilty of rationalizing the idea of 'Asians being a model minority' is foolishly ignoring the fact that 'Asia' is a huge, highly populated continent with immensely diverse social stratifications, languages, political climates, and economic conditions and structures. For example, how can one compare a small business owner from highly industrialized and westernized Japan to an illiterate, unskilled, rural peasant from Cambodia who has just endured 30 years of brutal warfare and massacre?

Filipinos are the one of the largest Asian immigrant groups in America. They enjoy the lowest poverty rates of all Asian Americans and usually come to America in a substantial financial state. Due to being a former colony of America, they are familiar with American culture, politics, and of course, English. They are the most westernized upon arrival and the most easily assimilable. In contrast, Cambodians and Hmongs live in rates of poverty two or three times the national American average, and often at higher rates than African Americans. They are new to America within the last 25 years, and products of one of the longest modern states of war in the territories formerly known as Indochina. They haven't had the time or resources to set up their own enclaves or mobilize themselves in the least to provide common support and communication networks to stabilize newly arriving immigrants or to fight for social justice in the political arena. Chinese and Japanese Americans, who arrive in America with far more capital than Southeastern Asians, have been in America for generations, able to assimilate or establish vibrant communities of their own with commercial business and affordable housing.

The myth of the model minority is not only harmful to Southeastern Asians, who are in need of special assistance to adjust and develop a niche in America, but perhaps equally counterproductive to other minorities struggling in America such as Blacks and Latinos. Their circumstances on coming to this country and their experiences in this country are far different than those of many Asians and they are in need of provisions to counter years of past and present persecution and discrimination to move upward in American social, economic and political arenas.

The model minority argument is one based on ignorance, not evidence, in a nasty attempt to negatively classify Blacks and Latinos as products of their own unwillingness to work hard or assimilate. This false classification has far reaching consequences that threaten to keep black and brown people economically impotent and politically disintegrated for several more generations.

Max Kantar is an undergraduate of Sociology at Ferris State University. He can be contacted at: maxifunk_05@hotmail.com


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