The Pressured Asian

Art by Maggie Dong

Art by Maggie Dong

“We play into the definitions and stereotypes others impose on us and accept the model-minority myth, thinking it’s positive, but it’s a trap just like any stereotype. They put a piece of model-minority cheese between the metal jaws of their mousetrap, but we’re lactose intolerant anyway! We can’t even eat the cheese.”
Eddie Huang, Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir

With high levels of educational and financial success, Asian Americans have made themselves into a model minority. Asians are stereotypically known to be smart, hardworking and socially awkward. Those who fall under the stereotype can usually be found dominating the classroom or at home studying.

Asians are expected to know everything, to be able to answer any question. Peers expect Asian students to learn quickly, disregarding that everyone learns through school and life experiences. Asian students seem solitary in their reach for perfection. The surrounding pressures raise Asians to another seemingly unobtainable level of smart.

Right or wrong, there are logical reasons for the pressure many Asian parents place on their children. In Asia, the school systems are extremely strict and competitive. These countries place such an emphasis on education that school becomes a student’s life, and extracurricular activities are rare. The focus is on subjects like math and science instead of the arts since it is believed that degrees in math and science lead to better paying jobs and a better quality of life.

The social hierarchy plays a role as well; a higher level of education results in a more respectable job, upholding the family honor. The majority of Asian parents in America are immigrants, and the American Immigration policy requires a certain higher level of education. Education in America is mostly free, unlike the costly education in Asia. Therefore, the majority of Asians aim to make the best of American education. Coming to America is the passport to opportunities for a better job and life. The Asian immigrant parents understand the value of education and want for their children what they could not obtain for themselves in their home country.

“The parent views the American school system as significantly easier; therefore, their child should have no problem acing everything… Immigrants are looked down upon because they’re seen as taking up space and resources. The children are pressured to show that just because they come from an immigrant background, it doesn’t mean they are worthless. Both the parent and the student are out to prove something,” Tariq Thompson said.

The smart Asian stereotype is an obstacle in both school and college admissions processes. The expectations placed upon Asians do not allow room for error in their education because they are competing with the best of the best: themselves. However, there are several Asians that do not achieve a perfect score and this stereotype ruins their opportunities.

“Asians are people too. We are not all smart. Just because we are Asian, that doesn’t mean we are all going to get a 36. We can get a 28 or 31. We are all different. It’s individual,” anonymous said.

For example, if an Asian receives a 35 on the ACT and applies to an Ivy League, they still may not be considered exceptional because there are other Asians that made a perfect score. This makes it even harder for an Asian to be accepted in a prestigious school due to the need for diversity. An Asian must be at the top of everything to achieve anything due to this interracial competition.

“Colleges have to balance out races, otherwise the Ivy Leagues would hold mostly Asian students, which doesn’t look good for a college because diversity is a positive trait. Therefore, a lot of Asians have to be denied or be at the pinnacle,” Thompson said.

The stereotypes associated with being a model minority may seem positive, but they can take away from one’s individuality as with any other stereotypes.

We must look past the stereotype and see a real, individual person. We are not all the same, so how can we expect singularity from an entire race?

“Your uniqueness is your greatest strength, not how well you emulate others.”
Simon S. Tam

-Tanya Tandon

Image Credits to Maggie Dong

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