’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I wish I could get the latest world news without having to sift through dozens of articles attempting to decipher facts from information twisted to fit a political agenda.
Stereotypes, through generalizing a group of people as possessing an undesirable trait (e.g. stupidity, arrogance) are harmful, but what about positive stereotypes? It shouldn’t hurt to tell someone that they’re outstanding and intelligent, should it?
However, there are always exceptions to that, which includes the Model Minority Myth, something that has been prevalent in society even today, and also what I experienced. Even though there is some questioning about the harm of the model minority myth, the positive connotation can still become negative.
But what is it exactly?
It’s where Asians are deemed geniuses, and superbly intelligent. There are also various stereotypes within this too, such as having Tiger Moms that force children to work harder and be “the best”, while others maintain prestigious positions, but not positions in leadership, in industries such as medicine, law and accounting.
This portrays Asians as law-abiding, smart people who are innately talented and have achieved success because of those factors.
This sounds amazing doesn’t it? Well, that’s not exactly right.
It erases diversity within of Asian cultures, it erases differences among others, and ignores racism.
Even though I am fully Chinese and I am regularly academically successful in high school, I felt like this label of being intelligent was stuck to me. Even though I felt the academic satisfaction of being at the top, having everyone respect me and I loved working hard to be the best I could be, I didn’t want to only be identified as being a top student. I felt distant from everyone I knew because others only knew me for what I had accomplished and not for who I am. I felt excluded from most people. This made me believe that I had to be the smartest person in the class because without the label of being intelligent, my label held no value and no one would remember me for anything.
Because of this, I felt mentally exhausted after working relentlessly to become the person that others perceived me as, but at the price of losing who I really was. In the end, nothing changed for the better. Instead, my grades actually started to slip, and because I failed to reach an expected level of achievement, it was perceived as due to a lack of effort at my part. I didn’t receive any help or support like what other teachers gave to other students, and they left me alone. On top of that, I still felt the social exclusion from others.
This made me question what would become of me if I didn’t have the label of being a model minority student, but instead work hard towards what I want to do. It made me question myself about who I actually was.
This positive stereotype of the Model Minority Myth is more likely to persist and less likely to be perceived as offensive than negative stereotypes. Perceived individuals who endorsed these positive stereotypes compared to negative stereotypes as less prejudiced and more likable and their words were less likely to be skeptical. The model minority myth says Asians are doing well today and it is due to the “work” towards racial justice. Asians have abided by the law to benefit them, and due to that, they are successful. According to the model minority myth, other ethnic and racial groups could only succeed if they work harder, have stronger family bonds and get over their histories of oppression. However, this sounds like racism and discrimination towards people of colour are downplayed and denied.
So instead of working towards being a model student, I wanted to work hard towards what I wanted to do, and branch out to build and form new relationships. Once that happens, then I constantly remind myself that we as an ethnic and racial group can still be collective while having our own differences.
You don’t need to be perceived as a model minority student. No matter how much you fit into that stereotype, the model minority myth is ultimately useless if you don’t feel like yourself while chasing it. Start exploring who you are and what you want to be. This can be done through constant reflection and small, but consistent goals to change yourself. Remember that only you can decide who you want to be, and with that you can break through the myth.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!
We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.