Asian-Americans wrestle with “model minority” sterotype

Leilany Perez

Since their immigration to the United States dating back to the 1800s, Asian-Americans have battled various forms of racism, discrimination, and stereotypes. Most recently, Asian students have become labeled as the “model minority” ― those who are considered smart, hardworking, submissive and never in need of assistance.
Being cast in the model minority stereotype can cause problems for some students. For example, a student may struggle with a topic but refuse to ask for assistance because of shame or embarrassment. Placed in a culture that is known for celebrating and emphasizing duty, obligation, and never shaming his family, Asians are regarded as people with a lot of pride.
Many Asian-American students are deemed a model minority because they are known for achieving high grades and test scores. Pressures due to high expectations from either their parents or peers begin to build at a young age for most Asian-American students.
Sophomore Christina Menil, who takes all advanced classes for her grade level describes how she feels about Asians being put in the model minority stereotype, including herself.
“Part of me thinks that I have to go with it and another part of me thinks that that’s not always how it works,” Menil said. “Personally, I just like to challenge myself.”
Most Asian-American students take more advanced classes than their peers, a factor that leads to the stereotype of Asians being considered smart, scholarly, and appreciative of education opportunities.
Expectations are constantly high for Asian-Americans, whether it’s getting certain grades or being in a certain occupation in the future. Sophomore Christine Vivo, who is Filipino, describes her experiences with people when she tells them her ethnicity.
“For a Filipino, it’s stereotypical if [people] assume that I’m going to be a nurse in the future because Filipinos would be like, ‘You want to be a nurse right?’” Vivo said.
The reason for these high expectations is that many Asian-American students have parents who are first-generation Americans. Based on 2017 data from the American Immigration Council, one in nine residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent. California’s population is 13.3 percent Asian, but at Bear Creek, that number is about 31 percent.
Most people immigrate to the United States because they seek better opportunities. Asian-American immigrants have traditionally pushed their children academically because they want them to have a better future and experiences in life ― a core tenet of the American Dream for immigrants. Although pressure tends to build up for students, people such as teachers and family members are there to support them on the path of success.
“[My parents] are frustrated when I get certain grades,” Menil said. “But also, because I do sports, they’re kind of more lenient than other Asian parents.”
“My parents do have pretty high expectations, but not to the point where I’m being stressed or pressured,” sophomore Selina Nguyen said. “When I have a certain grade, my parents try to support me and check up on me to see how I’m doing.”
Asian-American students consistently earn higher scores on the SAT test every year, especially in science and mathematics. Based on 2017 data from Inside Higher Ed, the percentage of test-takers meeting both of these benchmarks on the SAT is about 70 percent for Asians, while the average is 59 percent for whites, 31 percent for Latinos, and 20 percent for blacks.
Because of these scores, Asian-Americans students are considered “studious” people whose primary focus in life is academics ― so much, in fact, that college admissions officers have been accused of penalizing Asian students in the “personality” category. However, some Asian-American students reject that narrow view and enjoy doing various extracurricular activities that aren’t related to academics.
“I’m studious to a point,” Menil said. “I definitely have a lot more hobbies and stuff. I’m also in three clubs.”
“[I’m] not that [studious], but I say a little bit,” Vivo said. “Last year, I took JCKC and Polynesian. I dance outside also and I took badminton.”
The model minority stereotype still lingers around Asian-American students when it comes to academics and education. However, not all Asian-American students fit into the model minority ― they are more than just their high grades and superior test scores.