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What is the Model Minority Stereotype?
The Model Minority stereotype is the cultural expectation placed on Asian Americans as a group that each individual will be:
- smart (i.e., naturally good at math, science and technology),
- hard-working, self-reliant, living the “American dream,"
- docile and submissive, obedient and uncomplaining and/or
- spiritually enlightened and never in need of assistance.
Individuals who identify as Asian American may feel pressured to meet these cultural expectations. It is important to remember that no one lives up to a stereotype 100 percent of the time and that Asian Americans are a diverse group of individuals with diverse experiences.
Common experiences of Asian Americans
If you are Asian American, you may have experienced one or more of the following:
- Others (e.g., peers, professors, teachers, counselors) tell you that you must be great at math and/or science or ask whether you are going to go to med school.
- Professors and classmates assume that you study all the time and that you are doing just fine without additional help.
- Family wonders why you are choosing a major like art or journalism instead of medicine or engineering "like your cousins (or brothers/sisters)."
- College peers express envy or resentment that you “probably get straight As” or that you were “easily admitted to UT.”
- Others seem surprised when you stand up for yourself or express dissatisfaction about a situation.
- You feel inadequate about not living up to the image of (academic) excellence that others seem to expect of you.
How to counteract the effects of this stereotype
- Pay attention to what brings you satisfaction and fulfillment, as it may be different from what others expect of you.
- Explore career options that truly fulfill your abilities and aspirations. The Vick’s Center for Strategic Advising is a good place to start that process.
- If you feel like you are struggling to meet others' expectations, it may be helpful to examine whether these standards are realistic.
- Consider talking with family about the gap between their expectations of you and your own (if a gap exists). Talk to a counselor about how you can start to bridge these gaps.
- Recognize the potentially harmful effect of requiring yourself to live up to the Model Minority Stereotype
- Join the Asian Voices group, a weekly discussion group open to all students who identify within the broad spectrum of Asian/Asian American backgrounds.
For more information regarding the Model Minority Stereotype:
New York Times (2008). Report Takes Aim at Model Minority Stereotype of Asian American Students
Lee, S. J. (2009). “Unraveling the Model Minority Stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth,” Second Edition. Teachers College Press.
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