Debunking the “Model Asian” Myth: Five Ways Asian-Americans Still Face Discrimination (Pub’d on HIPPO Reads)

Debunking the “Model Asian” Myth on HIPPO Reads

Last week passed in a huge blur as July entered my life, along with a lot of new things that will keep this blogger SUPER busy through the entire month! That’s why I’ve been late to tell you about an article published in late June that I’m sure will resonate with many of you: Debunking the “Model Asian” Myth: Five Ways Asian-Americans Still Face Discrimination.

The accomplished Kaitlin Solimine (she’s also a contributor to the new anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit) asked me a few months back about doing a piece for HIPPO Reads, a website known for “Real World Issues, Academic Insights.” Originally, it all started when I shared an article about the bias against Asian students in academia (one of the most shocking findings from a recent Wharton School study) and she brought up doing a guest post for HIPPO Reads. So I said, “Sure, I’ll do it.”

Well, the article soon morphed into something far beyond the problems that Asians face in higher education in America, and now offers a more comprehensive snapshot of the many ways Asians just aren’t getting ahead in America (despite the “model minority” label Americans love to attribute to Asians).

Here’s a snippet of the article:

In April 2014, the public was collectively shocked when University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School unveiled the results of a study examining racial gender biases in faculty mentoring. This finding particularly struck a chord: “We see tremendous bias against Asian students and that’s not something we expected. So a lot of people think of Asians as a model minority group. We expect them to be treated quite well in academia, and at least in the study and in this context we see more discrimination against Indian and Chinese students than against other groups.”

For most of the American public, such a finding was confounding. After all, for many Americans, it seems Asians reign at elite colleges and universities and go on to live the American dream. Eugene Volokh, for example, in this Washington Post piece, points to the overrepresentation of Asians at the Silicon Valley behemoth of Google as an example of “how the Asians became white.”

Statistics can be deceptive, just like our own stereotypes about Asians in America. If Americans think Asians have truly made it—or even have an unfair advantage—perhaps it’s time to think again:

Read the entire article right now. If you love it, by all means share it around! And as always, thanks for reading!

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28 Replies to “Debunking the “Model Asian” Myth: Five Ways Asian-Americans Still Face Discrimination (Pub’d on HIPPO Reads)”

  1. Great article! The discrimination against Asians in the West is reportedly one of the main reasons why entrepreneurs like Jack Ma (of Alibaba, Taobao fame) decided to set up their businesses in Asia, instead of the US. These people believed that they would not be able to achieve the level of success they have now if they stayed in America.

    1. Thanks D-Maybe. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jack Ma would not have found the same success, had he attempted to set up his company in the US! The bamboo ceiling is real, unfortunately.

  2. Congrats, Jocelyn!

    It’s no different here in Bolehland. Meritocracy won’t get you far. It’s all pretty much about race. You may be an excellent student, but you won’t find a place in the local uni unless you meet the race factor. Okay, a token number to appear nice lah. Ditto in the public service, you hardly find any non Malays holding the top post – in fact, you find none, I would say! In the US of A, maybe they don’t spell it out loud. In Bolehland, we have the ‘bumiputera’ (native) prerogative thing. Haha. Nice!

  3. Ordinary Malaysian:

    The national policy in Malaysia regarding Malays has led to “brain drain” from the country. I was in Malaysia last month, and I still insist that lack of skills was the main reason for loosing MH 370 when it was in the Malaysian Airspace north of Penang.

    1. David, spot on on the brain drain thing. On MH370, a lot what we are being told by the authorities we are not buying into them. It has been the Bolehland authorities’ SOP to shift the blame to others and never acknowledging any incompetence on their part nor to tell it like it is. Something more than fishy about the mysterious disappearance of the flight. We are not even buying into the god forsaken south Indian route. Certain parties know the ugly truth but are not telling, that’s what right thinking Bolehlanders believe is the truth.

      1. And I heard Malaysian politicians are very much trying to reduce the inflation by subsidizing the spinach. Luckily they don’t use “Bomoh” to bring the living standard of Malaysians up.

        1. Rdm, so you had heard of the Najib’s (in) famous kangkung! dear me! That was a cheap stunt by the Pm who is short of constructive ideas and even shorter on inspired leadership. This guy talks cheap – after spinach, it was one Ringgit chicken! How low can one go?

          The big shots all use shamans – the more outrageous ones the better. Yes, we had a bomoh who lead an entourage on an imaginary boat with fishing baskets, coconuts and bamboo binoculars to recall MH370! Not bad, apparently they found something before the technical guys could say south Indian Ocean! – I don’t know!

          Bomohs might after all be a surer bet to uplift the economic standard of Bolehlanders than the clueless Pm! I had rather bet on them than Najib himself if truth be told!

  4. D-Maybe,

    I would say, regarding Jack Ma ordeal, it’s not so much about discrimination, it’s more about locality, seizing opportunity and being a bold chance taker. He was born in China, he taught English in China, he never studied in US; so to talk roughly the bamboo ceiling for Asians or Asian American in US barely borders on Jack Ma achievement in China. I’m not downplaying Jack Ma journey. I’m pointing out Bamboo ceiling for Asians in America is more to do with why Jeremy Lin was not first pick in NBA while Jack Ma is more similar to Henry Ford ordeal.

    Henry Ford had an idea, the idea that will overturn America livelihood into another chapter of “America on Wheel”. The fact that he couldn’t secure enough investment for his great idea in the first place was basically a bitter sweet and selling point for his biography. And he is an American. All happened in America.

    Whereas Jack Ma tried to borrow some money from Wal-Street while his idea was in infancy stage, he was turned down. Meanwhile the online shopping site like Amazon, giant in America, kept failing in China, couldn’t even crack the 1.3 billion markets share. Jack Ma who was born in China, who speak Perfect English yet overly simple, than average American, seized the opportunity, learned the locality and established what we had witnessed transforming China into another chapter of “1.3 Billions online market” — Alibaba. And that’s why he said in his Hong Kong China commencement speech “Those foreigner who came to China, just wanted to make the quick buck, will fail in China without ever trying to understand China.”

    I memorized “How to be successful in life and business” by Jack Ma by heart.

    So Bamboo ceiling to Asians in America does not belong to Jack Ma story. Jack Ma story is more to do with inspiration and seizing the opportunity. I would imagine if Steve Jobs had went to China and borrow some money from CDB (China Development Bank) for his great idea, he will be definitely turned down. The way bank works and the way ideas are nurtured are totally different.

    1. @Rdm,

      Thanks for your input. But in referring to entrepreneurs like Jack Ma I wasn’t addressing the point about the bamboo ceiling specifically; rather, I was speaking to the discrimination and anti-Asian sentiments more broadly. From the perspective of many, a business enterprise founded and run by an Asian person (regardless of whether s/he is an American citizen) would face many obstacles in its effort to realise its full potential and achieve great success in the US, simply because it’s founded and run by an Asian person.

  5. I cannot believe Asians are facing so much discrimination. I have never witnessed any discrimination against Asians. I only know that based on what I have seen, they flourish in America. I know that many of my fellow white boys love to date Asian girls. So, I cannot believe that there is so much discrimination against them. If white people discriminated against Asians so much, then the White men would not want to date Asian girls. The article does not make sense!

    I am certain that there is some discrimination in the U.S. but I just cannot believe that it is so prevalent as stated in the article. When I was in college, I saw many Asians. If they were discriminated against so much in the admission process, then how come I saw a disproportionate amount of Asians on college campuses?

    Is the author of this article accurate in his reporting of the facts?

  6. Currently I’m reading a very eye opening book titled Waking Up White by Debby Irving. Since it does seem to relate a little to the journal piece, please check out my review on this book this week, July 10th, 2014.

    Few years ago, I read Eddie Huang’s biography titled Fresh off the Boat, and boy was I shocked at the racism and all he has experienced! Eddie Huang was born in 1982, umm few years older than I, so yeah, very shocking. All people are different and its wrong to lump them into one idea.

  7. Bamboo ceiling is for real in America dude!!! That’s why we have to find other ways to excel financially and economically in America. Why Asians have to open more businesses or their own businesses in America? I told you guys 2 yrs ago. On Avg, we make more money than whites so we can prepare our kids for better life here. I really don’t want to argue on which Asian owners invaded what products or companies in America/Asia but discrimination is based on Asian founders, too. They think that you have an Asian face and you can’t market their sponsored products/websites. I used to work like there was no tomorrow while you people were still BBQ on the weekends enjoying yourselves.

    Manny, we do face discrimination as Asian females /males but Asian females with less discrimination. Do you see more Asian female news anchors on T.V or Asian male news anchors?

  8. “If white people discriminated against Asians so much, then the White men would not want to date Asian girls.”

    One way street. See my earlier post. At least in Australia among some sections of the white population (white women mostly) AWWM couples are not accepted and among a very large section of the white population here in the US, AMWW couples are definitely not accepted. This article states that more and more Asian Americans are setting up businesses in Asia. What it does not say is the fact that more and more AMWW couples are movin to Asia..Jocelyn and Texan in Tokyo are typical examples of this…the reason I believe is the staying power of racial discrimination against such couples. Of course, these days more and more British women-Japanese/Chinese men couples are moving to Asia because it is very difficult for Asian spouses to get residency in the UK. Singapore and even Malaysia is litered with such couples.

  9. “Do you see more Asian female news anchors on T.V or Asian male news anchors?”

    Watch some of the TV shows…white males flirt or sleep with every race of women, black male flirts and sleeps with every non-white woman, while the white female is only for the white male. Mistresses or Greys Anatomy on ABC anyone?

  10. That’s so crazy about the universities! Is it the same at state universities or just Ivy League schools?
    Glad you got the chance to write this article.

  11. This is the general comment on Jocelyn article on “Discrimination Against Asian in America”

    Although we see lots of Asians in higher educations and top tier universities in the states, the general impression is Asians don’t get discriminated due to their prevalent existence in top universities, top colleges, elite institutions. Careful analysis in depth will give you why there are some remnants of discrimination against Asians in America.

    When you have two applicants having the exact same qualification to matriculate at the same college, it’s more likely that Asians must have an EDGE to get into the said school compared to White applicants in general.

    On surface, this would seem like a good news to White school children, person in general. In fact, it would be a fool not to relish on such a privilege. Also we have to be aware of the fact that White applicant in general are not lazy, free-riding on the system that benefits them. They are actually trying their best to attain their status as well. But when Asians comes into the equation, the system becomes favorable to White people just being “White” while their counterparts applicant like Asians need to prove more of what they are capable of.

    When those arbitrary criteria are applied randomly instead of “Pure meritocracy”, we don’t need hard core PhD thesis to predict that those selected against with extra edge will over time evolve into elite class while those selected without “merit” will over time inevitably find it difficult to survive in this world of “Natural Selection”. And we witnessed such a play recently in Abigail Fisher lawsuit at University of Texas; having a mentality that since her father was UT alumini, she has more privilege than those African Americans to matriculate into the UT. If you look at her qualification, Asians will realize how abysmal her SAT score was.

    Similar scenario will show us why African Americans or Blacks in general are athletically strong while having poor record in education. I emphasize “IN general”. Neil Tyson, Ben Carson will attest to the outlier in “bell curve”. And no wonder that explains why we see Blacks athletes dominate in sport, NBA especially. Even now a putative white player like “Kevin Love” has been touted as potential great White player, it is a long way to match Kobe and Lebron.

    If this kind of selection continues happening in Education against Asians, I see we’re selecting “a person with intrinsic high mobility of neuronal synapsis”.

    Look at the
    Steven Chu = Former Energy secretary
    Roger Tsien = proven history of entire family in higher education and Nobel Laureate
    Jeff Ma = MIT graduate who exploited Las Vegas, and finally scooped by White actor in “21” movie

    The list goes on…

  12. @Rdm

    Very good analysis. As chinese saying, yan shi chu gao tu, hard surviving condition will select even stronger survivors.

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