May 26, 2022
Hi folks…To be honest, this blog was difficult to write. While there were aspirations to really celebrate the conclusion of this year’s Asian Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month, the recent (and continued) gun violence in our schools and against communities of color take a toll on many of us. Once more, we have shared in the struggle to process the complex solidarity of violence. And once again have found ourselves caught between false legacies that obstruct one community from commiserating with another. After more than 55 years, America’s ‘model minority’ myth still holds many Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) in the in-between – dividing solidarity from peers with lived experience.
The ‘model minority’ myth was birthed in the 1960’s by a sociologist (William Pettersen) who was trying to articulate that the Japanese American experience before and after World War II should be viewed as the ‘model’ experience for all minorities living in America. While taking nothing away from the experience of Japanese Americans who were imprisoned by their own country for a war happening thousands of miles away, Pettersen’s 1966 New York Times article, “Success Story, Japanese-American Style,” was short-sighted and problematic as it attempted to group and lump together the unique experiences facing racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. In essence, this false narrative created a ‘wedge’ or a devastating societal perception where there could be ‘good’ minorities and ‘bad’ minorities. In the 2021 University of Southern California article, “The Power of the Model Minority Myth and the Need for Solidarity,” three consequences of the ‘model minority myth’ were outlined: (1) obscures anti-Asian American racism, (2) renders invisible Asian Americans from broader society, and (3) implies that solutions labeled as anti-racist are inappropriate for Asian Americans. [Source: The Power of the Model Minority Myth and the Need for Solidarity > USC Equity Research Institute (ERI) > USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences]
The third point is the area today that creates the most complexity within our AANHPI communities. Who among us has personally met a ‘parent’ who does not want the best for their child and their ability to succeed in life? Does Asian American success in school somehow discount the personal experiences of ‘othering’ or discrimination, or nullify a sense of belonging in spaces of solidarity with other communities of color? One can grow up in South LA and struggle as family and AANHPI friends live into the ‘myth’ that by distancing from the discriminatory experiences in communities of color you somehow lower the ‘othering’ impact on your future opportunities and success. It is a ‘myth’ that still exists today and further blinds us to the ties that bind us together.
As we wind down our 31 days to highlight the diversity and complexities of the AANHPI experience in the U.S., we hope you had a moment to enjoy the many cultural events that took place across Southern California. We challenge you all (AANHPI’s, too!) to continue this journey of learning about AANHPIs in Los Angeles County for the rest of the year and truly consider/reconsider the importance of solidarity within and across communities of color. If we keep our hearts and minds open, we will truly see each other as common allies where supporting each other will lead to better outcomes for all children and families in Los Angeles County.