Asian Americans are often touted as the “Model Minority.” According to popular beliefs, we are the fastest growing, best-educated, most prosperous and successful ethnic group in the U.S. We also look after each other in our close-knit social networks, and we place enormous emphasis on family, education and hard work. Most of all, we mind our own business and seldom get involved in controversial issues and almost never protest or demonstrate in an assertive manner.
The complacency of Asian Americans may have been awakened by the convergence of three recent events culminating in a “perfect storm” perpetrated upon all Asian Americans.
In an effort to blame China for the pandemic that is still devastating our country, our President, Secretary of State and other members of the administration are still calling COVID-19 the “China/Wuhan Virus” and the “Kung Flu.” Not only are these terms pejorative, racist and technically incorrect, it has led to verbal and physical abuse of many Asian Americans.
The recent economic setback due to the coronavirus has shut down many small businesses and put many lower income employees out of work. This has disproportionately affected Asian Americans who are small business owners, employed as wait-staff or otherwise engaged in the lower paying service industry. It reminds us that many less-fortunate Asian Americans are still teetering in the lower middle class.
The third wave is of course the painful reminder that racial injustices are prevalent and maybe even increasing in America. The images of George Floyd being choked to death, Ahmaud Arberry shot dead jogging through a white neighborhood, and Rashard Brooks shot in the back fleeing from a police officer over a minor traffic infraction, are still fresh in our minds. Demonstrations have erupted across our country and many Asian Americans are learning that their lots are closely related to African Americans, and that indeed “Black Life Matters”.
In the current crisis, we are especially proud that two young Asian Americans are speaking out on behalf of our community. As second generation Americans, Eileen Huang penned “A Letter from a Yale student to the Chinese American Community”; and Jessica Ho wrote “Why this Chinese American Supports Affirmative Action and Black Lives Matter.” We are proud that these young Asians are dialed into current social events, speaking out and breaking our mold of acquiescence.
To this end, APAPA is forming coalitions with African, Jewish, Hispanic and other minority American organizations. We are also endorsing ACA-5 in California which would overturn Prop 209 and restore affirmative action which would level the playing field for all in Higher Education, Public Employment and Public Contracting.
In order to gain acceptance in the mainstream and “graduate” from our current “Model Minority” status, we must break out of our complacency and join fellow minorities in speaking up against all social injustices and together strive for the American Dream for every American!
APAPA is a nonprofit organization that empowers Asian and Pacific Islander Americans through education, leadership, and active participation in civic and public affairs.