By Ashley Ding
“You’re only smart because you’re Asian.”
We have all heard of the “model minority” stereotype. The American Psychological Association defines it as a belief that “Asian Americans are a uniformly high-achieving racial minority that has assimilated well into American society through hard work, obedience to social mores and academic achievement.” These stereotypes completely discredit the effort the individual has put into their work and use the person’s skin color as the sole reason they are hard working.
Unfortunately, the toxic model minority stereotype is not the only one. East Asians, Southeast Asians, and South Asians have all been affected differently. According to The New York Times, “South Asians are more likely to fall victim to stereotypes about terrorism.” East Asians have experienced racist remarks surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Some Southeast Asians are not even seen as Asians by others just because of the color of their skin.
As an Asian American whose parents immigrated from China in the 21st century, I have been subjected to these stereotypes ever since I was a child, so much that I was used to it. For example, there was a playground chant in elementary school that went like this: a student would make their eyes slant up and say “Chinese”, then slant them down and say “Japanese”, then brush their knees and chant “dirty knees.” I didn’t even realize they were mocking me and my Asian American peers. This saying was chanted on for years in my childhood, but the stereotyping did not stop there. In middle school, March 2020, I was called “bat soup” and was told to stay away from other kids because I was Chinese.
Asians have been inappropriately stereotyped for decades, but especially during the pandemic. Asians are discriminated against more than ever before, with detrimental effects on their mental health. The stereotype that Asians don’t fight back makes other people justify using terms such as the “Chinese virus” or the “Kung flu.” In reality, Asian Americans experience mental abuse from people using these terms to ridicule them. A Harvard blog articulates the mental and physical suffering of the victims and Asian Americans; “The relentless drumbeat of headlines and viral videos depicting unprovoked violence against Asian Americans contributes to vicarious trauma, even for those not directly attacked.” We need to stop the anti-Asian racism by starting with educating others about the diversity of Asian culture.
Harvard Health. “Anti-Asian Racism: Breaking Through Stereotypes and Silence.” Harvard Health, 16 Apr. 2021, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/anti-asian-racism-breaking-through-stereotypes-and-silence-2021041522414.
Nguyen, Viet Thanh. “Asian Americans Are Still Caught in the Trap of the ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype. And It Creates Inequality for All.” Time, 27 June 2020, time.com/5859206/anti-asian-racism-america.
The New York Times. “Confronting Asian-American Stereotypes.” The New York Times, 23 June 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/06/23/us/confronting-asian-american-stereotypes.html.
Abrams, Z. (2019, December). Countering stereotypes about Asian Americans. Monitor on Psychology, 50(11). http://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/12/countering-stereotypes