Models of the Model Minority
By Bryan Caplan
Asians have often been called the “model minority” – non-whites who by most measures are better-off and more successful than whites. But if you imagine that no one would complain about a positive stereotype of a minority, you don’t know much about leftist academics. A fascinating piece by Miranda McGowan and James Lindgren (“Untangling the Myth of the Model Minority,” Northwestern University School of Law Public Law and Legal Theory Papers ) sums up the objections of “Asian critical scholars”:
First, Asian critical scholars argue that the model minority stereotype is wrong as a factual matter. Here Asian critical scholars scrutinize data that appear to demonstrate Asian educational, occupational, and economic success… [G]eneralizations about “Asians” as a group are misleading… while the stereotype of Asian Americans as a very well educated, hard working, and fairly well-off minority group may be accurate for some individuals and some Asian national origin groups, it is decidedly wrong for other Asian American national origin groups and Asian immigrants.
Second, Asian critical scholars argue that the reported success of Asian Americans as a model minority has created a backlash against their perceived success… [S]ome Asian critical scholars have argued that this more recent attention to the success of Asian Americans is merely the old fear of the “Yellow Peril” dressed in sheep’s clothing.
Third, Asian critical scholars have argued that the model minority stereotype is also used as a cudgel against other minority groups and therefore entrenches white hegemony. Asian critical scholars argue that other minorities are measured against the model minority stereotype and remonstrated for their comparative educational and economic failures: if Asian Americans can succeed, what’s wrong with Blacks and Latinos?…
Fourth, Asian critical scholars have argued that the purely positive side of the model minority stereotype obscures discrimination against Asian Americans…
McGowan and Lindgren charitably interpret a lot of these complaints to be an empirically-testable hypothesis: People who believe than Asians are hard-working and smart will actually be more hostile to Asians, immigration in general, and all minorities.
In general they find the opposite, with one exception:
People who think that Asian Americans are smart, hardworking, or rich tend to be less likely to think that Asian Americans are discriminated against.