A few days back, I met a friend of mine who was visiting India after a long time for a short visit. It was an interesting few minutes where we caught up on many issues since we met last. We spoke of common friends in India and US, the price of Petrol, Land rates, hotels new and old, 24/7 news channels, films, increase in the rate of NRIs coming back to India and of Indians abroad.From what I heard from him and from others till today, it is a common knowledge that Asian Americans have done remarkably well in achieving “the American dream” of getting a good education, working at a good job, and earning a good living. So much so that the image many have of Asian Americans is that they are the “model minority” – a bright, shining example of hard work and patience whose example other minority groups should follow.
However, the practical reality is slightly more complicated than that. Among the five major racial/ethnic groups in the U.S., Asian Americans have the highest college degree attainment rate, rates of having an advanced degree (professional or Ph.D.), median family income, being in the labor force, rate of working in a “high skill” occupation (executive, professional, technical, or upper management), and median Socioeconomic Index (SEI) score that measures occupational prestige. Yes, in these categories, Asians even outperform Whites. Asian Americans seem to have done so well that magazines such as Newsweek and respected television shows such as 60 Minutes proclaim them to be the “model minority.”
Asian Indians consistently outperform not only other Asian ethnic groups but Whites in several achievement measures, sometimes by a large margin. And of course, you’ll find plenty of examples of Asian Americans who are quite affluent and successful, and Asian Americans should rightly feel proud of these examples of success.The point is that just because many Asian Americans have “made it,” it does not mean that all Asian Americans have made it. In many ways, Asian Americans are still the targets of much prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination. For instance, the persistent belief that “all Asians are smart” puts a tremendous amount of pressure on many Asian Americans. Many, particularly Southeast Asians, are not able to conform to this unrealistic expectation and in fact, have the highest high school dropout rates in the US.
Ultimately, the process of achieving socioeconomic success among Asian Americans is very complex. There are many examples of affluence and prosperity within the Asian American population but in many ways, they still face the same types of racism, social inequality, and institutional discrimination that other groups of color face. Therefore, the image that the entire Asian American community is the “model minority” is a myth. Ultimately, success may only be skin-deep.
Also read: Spellbound