A Model Minority group refers to a group, statistically smaller than the average equivalent group of another race, religion, ethnic or any such other categorization, which attains a higher average success in certain values such as wealth, education, athletic prowess, musical talent or any other such value than the other groupings in a society (Kodera). The most common categorizations for model minority are along racial or certain familiar traditions. In the US, a popularly known model minority concept is the Asian American minority. Asian Americans are members of a minority group who have both American and Asian ancestry, especially the Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and Filipino (Kodera). The model minority in the US are associated with success in such areas as professional jobs, strong family stability statistics. This labeling, and its associated common belief that model minorities are generally wealthier and more prestigious than contemporary societies have sometimes acted detrimentally to the labeled groups, especially where the reality is that a sizable majority of members of a model minority group is less wealthy than the average person in a metropolitan society, thereby denying them such services as public assistance (Kodera).
Far from the truth, the model minority myth is, in certain aspects, exaggerated, with research indicating that, the increasing number of enrollment in higher education by the Asian Americans being in equal proportions with that of similarly placed ethnic minority groups. In addition, Asian Americans typically enroll in a selected number of higher educational institutions, giving a false impression of their overrepresentation in higher education (Kodera). Asian American MCs have contributed significantly in fighting the Asian American model minority. Based on the above, this paper will explore the ways in which the MCs contributed in defying the myth. In addition, various ways through which Asian American consumers and cultural producers contributed to building and defying the myth will be explored.
Various musicians, artists, and cultural speakers have contributed to defying the model minority sentiment. Music MCs and radio DJs have been in the frontline. Beats from the East, for instance, is a musical group featuring a combination of music from all Asian regions including Hindu, Chinese among others, which tours various places within and outside the US in order to enhance intercommunity harmony (Beats from the East). Their shows are open to all people regardless of race, religion and gender. In addition, the group hosts an FM station, Radio 1190 in Denver, Colorado. The music they play is mixed and features all major genres, but is predominantly Asian (Kodera). The Far East Movement is another example. It is a hip hop group based in Los Angeles which has gained popularity by performing music of contemporary type and attaining a fan-base from all races within the society.
Between 2010 and 2011, the group toured various places and collaborated with non Asian-Americans such as Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Snoop Dogg, Ryan Tedder among others. The group has also participated in TV shows in through which they bridge the stereotype gap (Beats from the East). George C Lin (1971-2008) was an Asian American who actively got involved in breaking the model minority myth by nurturing talents in the community. This was through film director role, producer, community volunteer, music promoter and producer, arts advocate, dedicated family member and partner to many upcoming artists and community members (Beats from the East). Lin was a pioneer of anti- Asian American stereotypy in the US and greatly contributed to showing the Asian- American community as ordinary and patriotic. The Asian Pacific American (APA) film festival awards have held annual congregations in recognition of upcoming promoters of communities’ integration through media and arts, including music (Navarro).
The Asian American model minority has over a long time been seen in a way that hindered acceptance of its members in the society. Asian Americans have typically been looked at as members of a closed group which discriminated against other communities due to their perceived superiority in status quo, and therefore as people unfit to interact with in a balanced way in the contemporary society. In addition, their more stringent adherence to religion and family ties were seen as barriers to free interaction with other groups, and wrongly misjudged as prejudicial (DivTag). Over the years, cultural promoters and Asian American consumers have contributed positively and negatively to the perceived status. Firstly, their initial segregation in social activities such as in hotels, clubs and recreational facilities had led them to appear antisocial. In addition, their dedication and hard work had secured the earlier generations’ advantageous placement in the society, leading to the popular belief that they were exceedingly gifted. This fact was further exacerbated by their converged choice of higher education institutions giving the impression that their relatively higher percentage in these institutions was replicated throughout the US. Asian consumers tainted their image through non-interaction with other communities, selective shopping and consumption tendencies, selective education plans among other practices. Cultural promoters hurt the Asian American image through enhancement of segregating practices such as the establishment of ethnic based entertainment and food centers such as China towns, china hotels and exclusive private entertainment joints closed to other communities.
The last decade has witnessed considerable de-mystification of the Asian American model minority through community integration and enlightenment on various levels. The music industry, in particular, has been in the fore-front of this shift in perception. In part, the enhanced significance of the music industry in this effort is attributable to the fact that music is likely to reach the highest number of citizens, who also happen to be most prone to the model minority labeling. While the Asian American stereotype may not easily be eliminated, positive steps such as the ones discussed in the paper are likely to change many people’s perception of the myth.