If you watched the Oscars last night, you can recap that Chris Rock did a pretty good job at hosting, but a better job addressing the #OscarsSoWhite issue. I hate to be the millionth article talking about the Oscars, but just bear with me– not many people seem to be talking about this issue. It was all good until Rock pulled out the Asian “joke” in which he brought out group of Asian kids as his personal accountants, affirming the stereotype that Asians excel in math.
The children exited moments later, followed by Rock saying, “Thanks guys, thanks a lot. Now if anybody’s upset about that joke just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids.”
A “joke” about the exploitation of Asian children. Classy. Wasn’t Rock just advocating for diversity and equal rights between the races? Using voiceless Asian children with accounting jobs, Rock further perpetuated the “model minority” term.
Asians have coined the term “model minority” because we’re stereotypically known to be hardworking and successful without being involved in politics, the media or social justice issues, for that matter.
“Model Minority” is a term used by white supremacists, to protect white supremacy and reject the concept of institutionalized racism against all minorities. “Why can Asians be successful and hardworking without complaining?” A 1987 Time article asks, headlining, “Education: The New Whiz Kids,” basically asking, “why can’t other minorities stop complaining about being oppressed by white people and be submissive and obedient like Asians?”
The term may seem like a compliment to some, but it’s anything but that. It not only devalues Asians, but also Blacks and Hispanics, automatically alluding them to be the “failure minority.”
The idea that Asians are advanced and advantaged comes from a place of white fear that we are “taking over.” Statistically, 51.5% of Asian-Americans at least have a bachelor’s degree, while 30% of the general U.S. population does. On average, Asian-Americans earn a yearly income of $74,105 compared to the rest of America’s $53,657, as of 2014.
Despite the numbers, there still lies an issue that is intangible: the oppression of Asian people. Some will argue that we are not institutionally or socially oppressed against because of the statistics, but that is simply untrue.
Not much has changed since Asians first set foot on American soil more than 200 years ago. Sure, in 2016, If someone beat an Asian man to death, perhaps they wouldn’t only get two years of probation and a $3,700 fine like Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz did in 1982, but when hate crimes happen, it rarely reaches the news and gets the media attention it needs. There has been no actions about hate crimes against Asians, no hashtags, no movements. The same people that tweet #BlackLivesMatter are either unaware about these issues, or they just don’t care.
Asian-Americans are increasingly threatened, harassed and beaten because of our “submissive” stereotype. Sweatshops use 77.8 million Asian children to work long hours under excruciating conditions with extremely low pay, or no pay at all. Asian women and children are sold into sex markets to satisfy the repulsive fetish of men. But nevermind all of that– we’re Asians, we’re privileged, we have advantages and we’re not oppressed by the system; we’re the model minority.
With the recent indictment of NYPD cop Peter Liang, however, there have been Asians protesting in support of the officer, arguing that the justice system indicted a minority to appease those against police brutality. For the first time in a long time, Asians are standing up and speaking out for what they believe in. We’re doing our part by speaking out and defying stereotypes- now it’s the white supremacists and ultimately, the media’s turn to stop calling us the “model minority”– seriously, it’s not a thing.
Cheryl Hao – Asst. Castoff Editor