By Ivy Li, IV Form
Asians & Asian Americans: A “Model Minority”?
On April 9, I participated in a conference regarding Asian identity and the impact of such on living in America: Asian American Footsteps Conference: Embrace Your Passion and Others’ Stereotype. Although we were not able to explore the topics thoroughly and deeply enough within small group discussions due to the limited time, I have two main takeaways:
1. Don’t Let Go Your Passion
2. Stereotype Is Motivation
1. “My mother wanted me to be a nurse just like she and other relatives did, but I always had this passion to write. So I quit and became a poet…” This was Keynote Speaker Tina Chang talking about her experience as a Chinese immigrant and the obstacles on her way of pursuing dream.
Since little, she had shown great interest in reading and writing and wanted to explore the role and power of words. In spite of her talent, her mother insisted that she should follow the family’s tradition of becoming a doctor, a promising career, and did not believe that a Chinese woman could earn a satisfying amount of money by writing in a foreign language in a foreign land. Yet Tina did not want to follow the preset path, and she chose to pursue her passion. It was not an easy start as she had encountered unfairness in her first job of being an editor at a small magazine publisher. Despite her exceptional writing skills, she was assigned to simply create catchy titles. Her writing was not trusted because she is not white. After three months, she felt that it was not what she wanted so decided to be a freelancer.
Although she did not necessarily make a lot of money, she was content with her current life and spent over ten years to write and eventually published a collection of poems that addressed her struggles of living with two different voices—the Asian and American. She was stuck in between, as her mom wanted her to “inherit the family job” as a nurse, and her family did not understand or support her. Meanwhile, she also had to stumble through the thistles of distrust of her capability and to step out on a winding path on her own. I admire her courage and determination to quit a career when she realized it was not the right one, and she did not let go of her passion even though she was alone.
2. The student leaders had shown us several data sets demonstrating that Asians are regarded as a model minority—this minority group is usually deemed to achieve a higher success in education and socioeconomic status. The real-life example known to everyone is the assumption of Asians being good at math.
I particularly clearly remember a source that university admission departments, such as at Princeton, Harvard, and Stanford, acknowledged that they had a higher expectation on Asian students. Within group discussion on this piece of data, the main voice was that it was unfair for Asian students as they had to work much harder in order to get a good education that could be achieved by people from a different race possibly with less effort. However, I consider it as another form of expectation and motivation; it pushes Asian students to work harder to achieve the higher standard. I suppose this is one of the possible answers to the model minority myth.
Becoming more aware of issues resulting from different cultures and race, I wonder if there are some other unfairnesses (as we perceive) that can actually benefit the discriminated group.
Ivy Li is a IV Form boarding student from Guangzhou, China. She lives in Elm, plays tennis, dances, and enjoys classics.