What is the Model Minority Myth?
The Model Minority Myth: A Quick Preview
The Model Minority Myth has set expectations for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. It creates an idea that people part of these communities represent the classic American values. Despite the model minority myth being an example of a positive stereotype in that it presents a group with beneficial characteristics, it has placed many into a bubble of limiting and harmful expectations.
History: A Snapshot of the Origins of the Model Minority Myth
Throughout history, there has been a variety of anti-Asian sentiment and legislation, some of which has increased over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Civil Rights Movement, which took place throughout the 1960s, advocated for equality for all Americans. However, as this was taking place, the model minority myth was brought to light, which ultimately resulted in pitting members of the AAPI community against people from other communities of color.
According to the Asian American Education Project1, big news companies like New York Times and US News & World Report published articles on how Asian Americans took advantage of the American Dream with their work ethics and focus on education. Through these actions, these news publications were diminishing the systemic and systematic oppression that affected the lives of many Latinx, Black and Native Americans. Asian Americans benefited from the Civil Rights Movement as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave way for the creation of the Immigration Act of 1965, which decreased barriers for AAPIs entering the US and becoming citizens1.
Why is the Model Minority Myth Problematic?
Since then, the model minority myth has been pervasive in our society, whether it be in our education system, the media, or beyond. It tends to place members of the AAPI community in a box, particularly by emphasizing how they are “nerds” and “bookish”2. However, the AAPI community consists of people from a vast geographic area with many differences in cultural practices, socioeconomic status, knowledge, and more. While AAPI students are often seen as successful and high achievers, they fall on both ends of the achievement spectrum. There are many AAPI groups like Laotians, Hmong, and Tongans that get left behind in the discussion on achievement, which can negatively impact students from these backgrounds as a whole2. AAPI students also tend to be ignored and less scrutinized since they are classified as high achievers. Adding to this is that many AAPI families may see school as the authority on their child’s progress and many parents may have language barriers in terms of their English so they may not be able to properly advocate on behalf of their children.
Mental Health and the Model Minority Myth
As the model minority myth has been promoted, these ideologies have seemingly been internalized by members of the AAPI community, placing a damper on their mental health as they are scared to seek help since it may taint their apparent positive image. Furthermore, since the diversity of groups contained within the AAPI community has been undermined through the lumping together of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations, access to proper healthcare services and completion of medical research has been limited3. Cultural, socioeconomic and other differences present within these groups have seemingly not been fully acknowledged.
According to Cohut3, with mental health, members of the AAPI community tend to feel like they have to be academically gifted, hardworking, and successful in their careers so when they are not, they may feel inferior to their peers. The myth impacts those born in the US more than their immigrant parents since the idea is based in the US itself. Negative emotions and feelings of inferiority can root themselves in the form of imposter syndrome, where AAPIs can feel immense guilt in terms of not wanting to let their family and support systems down3. Adding onto this, many AAPIs may be hesitant to seek help, which can be worsened by lack of cultural competence in mental health professionals through perpetuating the model minority myth with microaggressions.
A Quick Wrap-up on the Model Minority Myth
As a whole, the model minority myth, from its emergence, has led to negative impacts for AAPIs. It has been a big part of our society as these ideas have been upheld through our education system, the media, and more. Many who are part of the AAPI community have internalized these ideas over time, leading to negative impacts on our mental health. Furthermore, the stigma around seeking help has been exacerbated by the prevalence of the model minority myth as some may feel ashamed to show signs of weakness. Also, mental health professionals may not have the proper cultural competence training and maintain these stereotypes promoted through the model minority myth. Therefore, greater awareness about the ramifications of the model minority myth must be made. Devoting more funding for research relating to the AAPI community will help society better address disparities stemming from ideas perpetuated by the model minority myth including those in healthcare and beyond. AAPIs are a diverse group with different people coming from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, which the model minority myth fails to acknowledge, but we as a society must begin to do so.
- The Asia American Education Project. Model Minority Myth [Internet]. The Asia American Education Project. The Asia American Education Project. Available from: https://asianamericanedu.org/3.1-Model-Minority-Myth-lesson-plan.html
- Chow GW. The Model Minority Myth [Internet]. National Association of Independent Schools. National Association of Independent Schools; 2011. Available from: https://www.nais.org/magazine/independent-school/winter-2011/the-model-minority-myth/
- Cohut M. How the ‘model minority’ myth affects well-being and mental health [Internet]. Medical News Today. Medical News Today; 2020. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/the-model-minority-myth-its-impact-on-well-being-and-mental-health#Mental-healthcare-falling-short