Note: I am not getting involved into Tumblr clusterfucks about ‘Asian privilege’ but this is worth reading for Asians and non-Asians alike who doubt that the model minority MYTH is proof that Asians are Most Favored
It’s not every day that deep and rigorous research about Asian Americans is released to the public. So when the well-respected Pew Research Center released “The Rise of Asian Americans,” a comprehensive report on the community on Tuesday, it should have been reason enough to celebrate. Instead, the report, which hailed Asians as the fastest-growing and highest-achieving racial group in the country, drew widespread criticism from Asian American scholars, advocates and lawmakers who raised alarm about the report, and warned against taking it seriously at all. Poor research of an oft-overlooked community, it turns out, might do more damage than no research at all.
We are “deeply concerned about how findings from a recent study by the Pew Research Center have been used to portray Asian Americans,” the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, a network of civil rights advocacy groups said on Wednesday. The report’s authors, the AACAJ said, “paint a picture of Asian Americans as a model minority, having the highest income and educational attainment among racial groups. These portrayals are overly simplistic.”
The Pew report included both census data and social trend polling of the six largest Asian-American ethnicities—Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese. These communities make up 85 percent of the roughly 17 million Asian Americans. According to Pew, half of Asians in the U.S. graduated from college, compared with just 30 percent for the general population, and report a median annual household income of $66,000* when Americans as a whole make $49,000…
Critics say the Pew report mixes some fact with too much mythology about what people imagine Asians to be. While a portrayal of Asian Americans as high-achieving, and adept at overcoming humble beginnings to reach great financial and educational success seems flattering, many Asian Americans say this frame is not only factually inaccurate, it’s damaging to the community.
*One of the reasons the median ‘Asian’ income is higher than most racial groups is because there are very few Asian Americans compared to most other groups (they make up less than 3% of the population) and the vast majority live in extremely expensive cities. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are richer, it means that the cost of living in these cities is higher but for specific reasons, Asians have patterns of settling there (think LA, Cali, Texas is cheap but living in Houston is not always cheap, etc). Again this is a statistical slight that doesn’t show you the whole picture.
Glossing over the class and educational disparities (among other things) among Asian Americans not only reinforces racist perceptions of Asians as interchangeable (“all the same”), but serves to reinforce the white supremacist race hierarchy:
The narrative fits in neatly with a very American “bootstraps” ethos, where people rise and fall on their own skills and merits. It’s a convenient narrative for silencing other groups who try to make claims of institutional racism and racial discrimination. “There’s this aspect of the media coverage where races are being played against each other,” said Yeung. “The not so implicit message is Asians are the better people of color whereas blacks and Latinos are seen as having all these kinds of problems, so why can’t all people of color be like us.”