Since graduating from Drexel University, I cannot help but reflect on my education and what I got out of it. I’d say I did get a great deal out of it, but I can also say I didn’t get anything that widened my world view, particularly the world view of my own national background, Cambodian.
I cannot help but wish that there were courses available to teach me about the history of my people beyond the short brushes that we could get from the public school system, and the bits in some history courses.
Part of the absence is due to Asian-Americans’ status as the model minority. “The model minority,” often the same term, which makes our successes visible, has also lead to erasure of our history. The Naturalization Act of 1870 marked the beginning of injustices against Asian people by prohibiting the naturalization of Chinese immigrants building the transcontinental railroad. Then there was the Immigration Act of 1924, with which the United States filtered who came over from Asia — only doctors, engineers and people who could contribute to capital were allowed.
The Asian population thrived and succeeded. We were given the tools already. But let me also point out that not all Asian people succeeded. I can tell you from observation that it is typically Japanese, Korean and Chinese (East Asian), Middle Eastern (West Asian) or Indian (South Asian) people who have “success” by just looking at the socioeconomic distribution among who live in the glass towers of Philadelphia’s University City. You won’t see Cambodians, Hmong or Bengali in those glass towers.
This myth is implemented in order to say: “Racism isn’t real anymore! Look at the Asian population! Look how well they’re doing! They’re now rising up in the ranks even though we’ve committed injustices against them! Be like them!” There is no benefit for Asian people from this. It divides people.
However, recently, much to my own pleasure, I watched an ATTN video (see: “Well-Rounded Life, Model Minority Myth,” if you’re interested) that explains this label perfectly. It goes on to make reason out how it came into existence and why it is being used still. It makes sense.
It’s a myth. And to debunk it, there needs to be more on the educational side of things. Of course, having people out in the streets to give voices to the injustices enacted upon them would be a sweeping call for solidarity, but I’m not asking for that quite yet. I just want schools to teach the populace about the full history, not just offering it as an elective.