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I’ve been struggling to find my words lately, especially ones that feel right for this time. I didn’t think or learn about race for most of my life, but when I started to, I had already learned a variety of things that I’ve had to spend time unlearning.

In school, we were taught that the Asian population was considered the “model minority” for their above average income and education levels. The framing implied that Asian immigrants were able to succeed compared to other minority groups due to increased amounts of hard work and family values, with no regard for how they compared with other groups by nearly any other metric. It turns out that the narrative was actually developed post-WWII for Americans to seem like a racial equal country to gain allies during the Cold War. In the 1960s, it also served as a way to discredit the civil rights movement and shift the blame for the systems that created inequality for Black people. Essentially, white people wanted Asian immigrants to be the example of how the system was functional. The myth was self-fulfilling—as Asian immigrants began to gain the reputation of being successful, white people began to treat them better, making it more accessible for them to succeed in areas that would be less accessible and welcoming to other minorities.

I believed in this myth and wondered about the disparities between different ethnic groups in this country. Subscribing to the model minority myth was alluring, since it seems to show Asian immigrants in a positive light. In reality, the myth drives a wedge between minority communities. Nearly all civil liberties that are granted to non-white people in the United States can be traced back to the efforts of Black activists from the civil rights movement and beyond. It seems absurd for Asian immigrants and Asian Americans to actively perpetuate anti-Blackness, working against the very same group that made this country a great place to live for them. Learning these things made me realize how anti-Blackness is so ingrained in our society that many people could go their entire lives without understanding how race functions in this country. 

Protests are happening across the country, and even in different countries, showing respect for BlackLivesMatter. For the first time, many people are being forced to acknowledge the realities that Black Americans have been facing for centuries. As police instigate violence against nonviolent protestors, we begin to see an example of the systems in the US that perpetuate anti-Blackness. I have hope that these protests will lead to a more equitable future for everyone, and it surely will if everyone helps in whatever way we can.

I don’t expect everyone to become an activist overnight, but in this moment at least, take some time to examine your assumptions about race. A good starting point is

“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” — Angela Davis

Ways you can help

More on Model Minority Myth

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In solidarity,

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Nikhil · 325327 Georgia Tech Station · Atlanta, GA 30332 · USA

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