The Model Minority VS. Southeast Asians

Asian Americans have become labeled as the “model minority”, such that they were able to overcome adversities and succeed under oppression. Asian Americans became the designated model minority in 1966 by sociologist William Peterson who described them as the minorities whose values and culture and helped them overcome marginalization. Peterson’s assessment of Asian Americans was a generalization made from observing East Asians, specifically Japanese Americans.

Unfortunately, this stereotype still runs deep in our society today. Asian Americans continue to be seen as the model minority who is doing fine on their own that needs to no help from anyone. In addition to be the “smart” Asians, they were also described as wealthy since they were unable to overcome oppression. These stereotypes have become part of Asian Americans narrative. Imagine growing up being expected to be smart and rich.

In addition to being labeled smart and rich, the ideology of Asian became the image of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, as though Asian only consisted with East Asians. As a Southeast Asian myself, I have been asked multiple times if I was Chinese. It is as though, being Asian equated to Chinese.

Being stereotyped as Chinese in addition to being expected to be the model minority creates almost an identity crisis for Southeast Asian Americans. Throughout my education, I believed that I was suppose to be smart, and not being able to meet this requirement made me feel like a failure. I was born to Hmong parents who have a refugee narrative, one that entails leaving their own country due to persecution in their homeland.

My parents migrated to America at a young age and worked tirelessly to succeed as Americans. However, due to their Asian complexion, they were assumed to not need help in their education. Today, my mother was able to obtain an Associates Degree and my father dropped out of college. My parents are now divorced, which leaves me raised by a single parents. With their education history, they both struggle to make a living. I attended a low-income where I received free lunch. I am not upset about this, for the longest time I did not even know that I was considered low-income. I was surrounded by others like me and enjoyed every minute of my education with my peers.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 8.02.00 PMStatistics from A Dream Denied showcases the reality of Southeast Asians. They do not fit the stereotype that all Asians are smart and rich. Most Southeast Asian Americans have experiences similar to mines coming from a refugee history. A Dream Denied illustrates the struggles for Southeast Asians to reach higher education. With the whole world believe that being yellow makes you immortal to failure, it becomes difficult to have equitable access to higher education.


Furthermore A Dream Denied gives recommendation on how to Southeast Asians can advocate for higher education for their community. Overall, “Asian” is more than Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Asian is far more diverse than our society depicts.


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