Not Your Model Minority

Dear Readers: As I was writing this blog post, it started to sound more like a poem than an article – so I turned it into one. The above audio contains an introductory note to the piece as well as a voice reading of the poem so that you can listen along as you read.

“Sometimes I wonder if the Asian American experience is what it’s like when you’re thinking about everyone else, but no one is thinking about you.”

-Steven Yeun

Let’s talk about this past week and the hate crimes perpetrated
against Asian Americans the last few days in Oakland
Let’s talk about this past year and our past period in American history 
This neglected narrative
This invisible experience

While the country does its annual round of capitalizing 
off of Lunar New Year this weekend, I think about the Asian Americans who will spend 
what is supposed to be one of the most festive and important holidays in their culture 
cowering instead of celebrating
Let me tell you about the attacks that have been happening
because you won’t find them headlining on national news
A conversation that is long overdue

An 84 year old Thai man was attacked in bright daylight and died from his injuries 
Vicha Ratanapakdee
Say his name
and pronounce all. of. it. 

Numerous robberies and assaults in Oakland’s Chinatown 
A 91 year old man was pushed down
It was like watching my own grandfather get slammed into the pavement
Look up the video on your own if you want to see it
but I refuse to circulate Trauma Porn – my trauma, your porn
Non-POC: You cannot fathom how personally traumatizing it is to watch these videos

Faces slashed, grandmothers set on fire 
The sheer volume of violence is staggering 
I’m having a hard time grappling with this inhumanity against our elderly
Our elders 
Who are revered and respected in our culture in a way unlike the culture of this country
Who rose from the ruins of a broken nation seeking solace 
Searching for a better life in the Land of Opportunity that only knew them by the word 
Foreigner 

In the wake of these assaults there is one word that comes to mind 
A word that has been grinded and conditioned into the Asian American experience:
Invisible 
Anti-Asian sentiment since the beginning of this pandemic 
Targeted hate crimes have surged by almost two thousand percent

Where are you, CNN? 
Where are you, my fellow activists and leaders of social justice?
Deafening silence from the news media and our so-called allies
Feigned outrage only when it’s trendy  
I am traumatized by your apathy

You cannot be anti-racist without acknowledging the Asian American experience. 

Enough with the narrative of the Model Minority
What is the Model Minority Myth? 
I guess I’ll save you the self-education
And tell you about a nation that only respects you when
you keep your head down and talk nice 
Get good grades and that’s the price 
of being tolerated in White America 
But despite staying out of trouble and being quiet 
equality never comes with being compliant 

Because you see, 
the Model Minority Myth was weaponized 
by our government back during the Civil Rights movement 
to say that there is a “correct” way to be a minority  
The audacity of White Supremacy 
To give us a pat on the head for being silent
To take a diverse race of people and reduce them to a monolith 
The audacity of White Supremacy
To use us as their tools to undermine the Black fight for civil rights 
To pit minority groups against each other and further the divide

A nation built on the backs of
Black people and immigrants 
Born with this burden that we were doomed to carry 
as soon as our lungs drew in the first breath
The breath that got heavier and heavier with each year of life 
A life of N*****, Ch*nk, Oriental, “blacks” as a noun with a lower-case B,
Dred Scott, Korematsu, Plessy
Yellow Peril, Chinese Excluded, For Colored Only
A life of imperialism and colonization and cultural appropriation 
A life of “I think you may have confused me with the other [insert indistinguishable face of color] in this room” and 
“I’ve never dated a [insert fetishizable object of color] person before” and 
“But what’s your real name” and
“Can I touch your braids” and
“Your English is good” and 
“You don’t sound Black” and
“Your lunch smells funny” and 
“Go back to your country” 

No amount of the Model Minority Myth embedded in deep interracial conflict
will change the fact that we have always been seen and treated as secondary citizens
If citizens at all

From a young age I didn’t know how to take up space
It’s having to laugh off microaggressions because 
we are made to feel that the racism against us isn’t real – is miniscule, is just a joke 
Gaslit over and over 
We are told to embrace our “good stereotypes”
I mean what exactly is our plight when 
we’re all just so good at math
Right? 
But this Myth invalidates the reality of the Asian American experience
Our internalized racism, our intergenerational traumas
Our women the subject of hyper-sexualization
Our men the epitome of emasculation
It paints us as submissive and void of personality 
Strips us of our individuality 
It erases the millions of low income Asian Americans that exist in poverty
It ignores the historic underfunding of Chinatowns as people huddle
around what little reminders they have of their homeland 
It silences our struggles and shoves them to the sidelines 
This repulsive notion of white proximity 

I’m tired of being told that we are not Oppressed Enough. 
Enough.

We are not your model minority.

I’ve said this a hundred times and I’ll say it again:
The burden should not fall on people of color to be educators 
I’m going to be honest and I hope you will be modest enough to listen
Because writing this piece was so exhausting 
So emotionally draining
I wanted to swallow my words, swallow my pain
To shut off my brain and just mourn in bed
I wished I was privileged enough to write about Snow Day instead
But instead I opened a Google Doc and my curtains and my wounds

This toxic rhetoric of 
“Your oppression isn’t as bad as mine” and 
“Now is not the time”
Sorry but 
I didn’t know that racism had a sign-up sheet 
A hate crime against one community is a hate crime against all of our communities
We all suffer under the puppetting hand of this systemic oppression 
The problem is not us and each other and this underlying tension 
The problem is White Supremacy so pay attention 

If your anti-racism isn’t intersectional, are you really anti-racist?
Don’t ask us to shrink our space when we have already gone 
our whole lives feeling small
I promise that there is enough space to go around this arena of 
Oppression Olympics that was designed to be the modern day Hunger Games
Designed to point fingers and call names but we are all pawns of the same system
So shouldn’t we be asking instead: who designed it? 
And how do we get out?
Unity is not possible with White Supremacy 
But unity against it is necessary to defeat it 
The only way out is together 
Diversify your narratives so we can do and be better 
So that we can uplift all of our communities and stand in solidarity 
This struggle for safety
This struggle for scraps 
of space at each other’s expense 

But now that I’m here, let me make this clear:
Asian Americans cannot find safety in the same institutions 
that terrorize Black Americans
Although we are wounded, the police must still be defunded
Increased policing is not the answer 
Black Lives Matter
So we must make good on our promise from last summer 
To use our privilege and protect the Black community 
So instead of calling for increased policing that will harm Black bodies
Let’s get to the root and provide adequate services and resources 
for all of our communities 
Let’s rid this false notion that there is mutual exclusivity in this fight for equality
The solution lies in addressing this violence that is rooted in White Supremacy
A violence that is not the violence that we see but the violence that is
Unemployment, Homelessness, Wealth Hoarding, Redlining, and Poverty 

So let’s turn this mentality into a new story 
One where Asian Americans can take up space unapologetically
and speak their truths and shed their invisibility 
One where our white and POC allies support us openly 
by condemning anti-Asian violence in their own communities
I challenge you to check your own biases 
and follow through on your commitment to diversity 
See us, show up for us, and take on responsibility 
Hold accountability

Marginalized freedoms have always been and will always be intertwined 
My pain is your pain is our collective pain 
It is our collective grief and our collective loss
And so your fight is my fight and my fight
Should be yours, too


Rosa Kim is a second-year student at BC Law. You can reach her at kimeot@bc.edu.

Featured image: Vicha Ratanapakdee

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