The Myth of Model Minority
Saying any one minority is a model group detracts from the larger issues of inequality and racism.
Movements like Black Lives Matter advocating for equality often suffer from silence regarding issues of racism from other minorities.
This silence results from a harmful trope upholding certain minorities as a model minority community.
When a group is upheld as a model minority, it perpetuates a myth that the model minority is somehow better than other minorities.
This is ultimately detrimental to movements against racism that lead to unequal treatment of minorities.
"White silence is violence," a powerful message communicated at Black Lives Matter protests around the world. It points to a significant shift in expectations that it is no longer okay to just not be racist. The statement stressed the need to be vocally anti-racist.
Your silence means you are part of the problem.
What is Model Minority?
The concept of the model minority is inherently racist and problematic as it segregates and divides people of different ethnicities.
A model minority is a minority demographic (based on ethnicity, race or religion) whose members are perceived to have achieved a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the average minority populations, thus serving as a “model”.
The “success” of a model minority is typically measured in relation to their educational achievements, their representation in managerial and professional occupations, average household income, and other socioeconomic indicators such as low criminality and high family/marital stability.
This concept has historically been used to suggest there is no need for government intervention in socioeconomic disparities between certain racial groups.
The model minority trope has most often been applied in America to contrast Asian Americans (both East and South Asians) and Jewish Americans against African and Hispanic Americans.
It is used to enforce an idea that Asian and Jewish Americans are “good law-abiding, productive citizens/immigrants.” In turn, it promotes the harmful stereotypes that Hispanics and African Americans are prone to crime and dependent on welfare.
What is Fragility?
We’ve all heard of “white fragility” – a discomfort with racial stress that motivates defensive actions on the part of a group.
Fragility is discomfort with issues surrounding racism that leads to behaviours such as arguing or silence in discussions about race. These behaviours serve to maintain a racial status quo that favours white people.
Discomfort around racism, or “fragility”, is so often linked to white people that it only ever seems to be discussed as a characteristic of white people.
The notion that fragility is a problem of white people is not only untrue but harmful.
It downplays the fact that other people of colour can and do play a role in defending the white status quo that is actively oppressing Black and Indigenous people of colour (BIPOC).
Brown Silence Is Also Violence
Just as “white silence” leads to violence, the silence of minority groups also perpetuates racism and inequality.
South Asian communities in the US, UK and Canada are being called upon to check their brown privilege and speak out against anti-Black racism.
Fragility in minority communities comes from a place of privilege afforded to them through the model minority myth.
It’s essential to be mindful of this and stand in solidarity with other minorities when issues of racism, oppression and injustice are voiced.