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'Model Minority' Stereotype

The ‘model minority’ stereotype refers to a minority group perceived as particularly successful and is often applied to Asian Americans. Despite being a ‘positive stereotype’ because it refers to a positive trait, the consequences of the stereotype are negative.

Even if you haven’t heard the term ‘model minority’, you probably have come across the idea. The first reference to a model minority is reported to have been in a 1966 New York Times article, Success Story, Japanese-American Style (pdf, 672 KB). Published in the heat of the civil rights era, the article repeatedly compares the challenges and outcomes of Japanese immigrants and their descendants to those of other minority groups. These notions of a so-called model minority have been perpetuated over decades. In 1987, a Time Magazine cover story was titled Those Asian American Whiz-Kids. In 2016, the Oscars included a joke about East Asian child accountants tallying the votes.

Below are four reasons the model minority stereotype can be offensive or problematic. Click on the resources to learn more.

  1. Fails to recognize the cultural and economic diversity within the group and the persistent disadvantages faced by subsets of the group
    The Two Sides of America’s ‘Model Minority’LA Times
  2. Puts unfair and potentially harmful expectations on members of the minority group
    Keeping Up Appearances As a ‘Model Minority’ Can Have Serious Mental Health ConsequencesVice.com
  3. Emboldens some to make racially-charged jokes that overlook the discrimination experienced by Asian Americans
    A video about the Myth of the Model MinorityThe Washington Post
  4. Drives a wedge between minorities
    'Model Minority' Myth Again Used As a Racial Wedge Between Asians and BlacksNPR.org

UPDATE: Race as a dynamic state: Triangulation in health care. Recently published in The Lancet, Perspectives|The Penumbra

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