The model minority myth and me - a preface.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity as a Cantonese-Canadian, as a child of immigrants, and as a woman of colour. As a product of my identity, I have experienced my share of systemic racism in various forms. However, I am also acutely aware that as a person of East Asian descent, these forms are often mild and disguised, that I am able to occupy space in a way that my black counterparts cannot, and that I do not experience the blatant brutality that my black counterparts do, among a long list of other privileges. So, as my self awareness has grown exponentially over the last half year, I have been finding it increasingly difficult to situate myself in explicit discussions about race. I strive to be an ally but often don’t know the extent to which I should have a voice in the struggle against white supremacy. I feel between worlds and irrelevant, with neither the traumas of black POCs rooted in my lived experience nor the privileges of my white colleagues.

A 7 year-old-me in my small & very white hometown of Trenton, ON.

In heated discussions about race, I often feel uncomfortable in my silence; I worry I am being complicit in the face of injustice. This is largely rooted in a fear of my own ignorance; after all, I grew up in a tiny, conservative, and predominantly white town, and my family rarely spoke of race. I acknowledge that, as a result, I am still in the early stages of a long process of unlearning decades of internalized whiteness. I have assumed the role of active listener and of frantic learner, eliminating white male authors from my reading list, and filling my bookshelves instead with Junot Diaz, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ta-Nehesi Coates and Zadie Smith. I bought books at a rate faster than I could read them, and it slowly became clear that in my frantic attempt to better understand black-white identity politics, I was neglecting to acquaint myself with my own racial context and cultural history. I was neglecting it because, to me, it felt secondary and somehow less valid, somehow less urgent— after all, I knew that I enjoyed an abundance of privileges, and that I was part of what most believed to be a “model minority”.

I spoke to TK about this cognitive dissonance a few weeks ago, and we decided that to more deeply explore my personal issues with identity, we should work together to deconstruct the myth of the model minority, backed of course by statistics, on the blog. So in this month’s post, we explore the idea that although the experience across different POCs is not monolithic in nature, the concept of the model minority is nevertheless a myth — and it is a dangerous one.

Stay tuned for our upcoming data-post.

- Lorraine