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Racial justice event deconstructs Asian model minority myth

April is a month of celebration for SAMEAPI Awareness Now! (Priscilla Son)
April is a month of celebration for SAMEAPI Awareness Now! (Priscilla Son)

SAMEAPI Awareness Now! presented an event titled “Asian Americans and Racial Justice: Model Minority Mutiny, Collective Liberation and Faith-Rooted Allyship” on Apr. 2 in the Student Union.

 This is one event of many hosted by SAMEAPI, the South Asian Middle Eastern Asian Pacific Islander club, featuring Mills 2012 Graduate Bianca Louie and some pork buns. Louie spoke about the  interconnectedness of Asian American narratives and the reality of all people of color in the US. She addressed how to be an ally and speak up as an Asian-American voice during dialog about racial justice.

“I wanted to give historical context to why it’s difficult [for Asian Americans] to engage in conversations about racial justice,” Louie said. “We matter, and we are stakeholders.”

Despite differences in the ways Asian Americans experience oppression, Louie encouraged the audience to see how the history of Asian Americans and that of anti-Black racism are interconnected. Some Asian-American students she has met do not even see themselves as people of color and therefore consider themselves irrelevant to the conversation of oppression by white supremacy.

“When we talk about Black Lives Matter, when we talk about racial justice, we’re allies, but we’re also stakeholders in this,” Louie said. “We want to decolonize the way history, policy and culture as Asian-American citizens has pit us against other people of color.

Louie also discussed the model minority myth. The myth associates positive stereotypes such as hard-work and obedience with Asian Americans and was used as a weapon to get their citizenship validated over other immigrant groups. Model minority mutiny is the internalized anti-blackness that Asian-American people were taught to feel about other immigrants.

Louie explained that Asian Americans seem to have vertically integrated into the white middle class. They are expected to go to college and be successful in ways other people of color are not. However, she disagrees with the belief that the system works for Asian Americans but rather feels that they have simply learned how to work the system by going against other people of color.

“Asian Americans have been labeled as a model minority who are great workers, who are passive, who aren’t going to disobey your orders,” Louie said. “But who has paid the price for that?”

Black people have been stereotyped as a “problem minority,” with crime, unemployment and poverty. White supremacy, Louie stated, used the model minority myth to juxtapose Asian Americans to Black people in order to justify anti-Black racism.

“There is this idea that we are post-racial Asians who pulled ourselves up by our boot straps,” said Louie, “that we’re fine, so there must be a problem with the other people.”

Louie suggests having conversations with other people in order to extend your voice, forgiving people if they speak over you and being aware of your own blind spots in the spirit of being an ally.  In some spaces, Louie said, such as those celebrating Black people, one’s experience as an Asian American may not belong, and it is important to be aware of all people.