As part of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month, guest speakers took on topics like supporting Hmong students on campus, the effects of the model minority and gender and sexuality at a lecture Thursday.
University of Wisconsin professor of educational policy studies Stacey Lee hopes to bring change to stigmatized Asian American groups which are affected by the model minority stereotype.
Lee said previous stigmas surrounding people of color set racial standards that persist in today’s societal views of marginalized groups because of their ability to perform the job they were intended to do, which was forming a racial wedge in the 1960s during the civil rights movement.
Along with creating a void between people of color, Lee said the model minority stereotype showcased Asian Americans as making their own future better.
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“This model was used … to suppress civil rights leaders and show that America was the land of opportunity,” Lee said.
Lee said the all-encompassing term “Asian American” deprives the people it is aimed at of the diversity they bring to the table and renders them invisible and unrecognizable as a whole people.
Along with the racial differences between the groups, the achievement amongst Asian subgroups is considerably more diverse than what the model suggests. Economic success is not the same across the board within the Asian American minority, Lee said.
The oversimplification and expected silent, hit-the-books-hard attitude the model pushes onto people of all Asian descent is not only racist but also makes marginalized Asian peoples settle for second-class citizenship, Lee said.
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“Parents push the model minority ideals onto their children because they know that there is racism and the model is a little bit better than what could be if they aren’t a part of it,” Lee said. “And thus they perpetuate the stereotype.”
Lee’s book, “Unraveling the Model Minority Stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth,” was first published in 1996 and had a second edition published in 2009 because she felt this issue is still relevant in society today.
Lee said the second people start to complain and break the silence associated with this stereotype, the country will start to challenge racism and injustice.
“Study hard and get the grades you get, but fight racism,” Lee said. “If there is injustice, speak out on it, it’s not just achievement it’s also behavior.”