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Asians, the Model Minority?

Nida Spalding loves to read, travel, and spend time with family and friends. She believes that curiosity and persistence are key to happiness and success.

Matthew Lee, a doctoral candidate in sociomedical sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, wrote an article about how coronavirus fears show how "model minority" Asian Americans become the "yellow peril."

Merriam-Webster defines "yellow peril" as

1: a danger to Western civilization held to arise from expansion of the power and influence of eastern Asian people,

2: a threat to Western living standards from the influx of eastern Asian laborers willing to work for very low wages.

In his article, Matthew Lee, asserts: "We are neither your model minority nor an outside threat, and falling into either trap will only make containing this crisis harder—for Asian Americans and for everyone."

What does model minority mean? How did the myth get started? Who are the model minorities? According to Encyclopedia.com, the term "model minority," referring to an ethnic minority that has achieved success within the parameters of the dominant culture, was popularized in the 1960s and ascribed to Chinese and Japanese Americans. The term is not a normal topic of my conversation with Filipinos, or my Chinese or Taiwanese friends. I realize, that as immigrants, we are guests of the United States of America. There will be times when guests are no longer welcome.

Once considered the model minority, Asian Americans have been subjected to harassment, due to the coronavirus. President Trump, referring to COVID-19 as the China virus or Kung Flu, does not help matters. There have been reports of Asians being spat on, called names, kicked, hit on the head, told to go home to their country and vilified as bringing the coronavirus to America. What would I do if someone did any of these things to me?


I worry for everyone. And I brace for harassment because someone who harasses a fellow human being for a virus that could originate anywhere will not likely inquire if I am Chinese. They might not know the difference between a Chinese and a Filipino. To some, all Asians look the same. I've been mistaken as Vietnamese.

Years ago, in my twenties and a new driver, I was driving my Toyota Celica out of a department store parking lot, when a man driving a motorcycle zoomed past me and said, "Go back to China and learn how to drive." I didn't know what my error was. There's also a stereotype of Asians as being bad drivers. Asian drivers are typically cautious drivers; they don't want to injure or kill anybody.

Not all Asians are the same, but each group might have something in common. They try their best to assimilate and become good citizens. Asians are family oriented, hard-working, and a grateful people. Asian American parents tell their children to value education, take advantage of opportunities, work hard, become self-sufficient, help the family, and serve the community. But doesn't these describe other Americans who are not Asians?

America has the capacity to fight and defeat the COVID-19 virus. Then what is this really about?

Unfortunately, it is a blame game, labeling people, dividing us as Whites, Blacks, Brown, Republicans and Democrats. We are all Americans and we are better than this. Together, we have to fight this virus, not each other.

~ Nida Spalding






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