The Asian American Uniform Myth of Success

By S. Walker, La Trenda | Heritage, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

The Asian American Uniform Myth of Success


S. Walker, La Trenda, Heritage


In 1986, National Broadcasting Company' Nightly News and the McNeil/Lehere Report aired special news segments on Asian Americans and their successes. Several prominent news magazines such as Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, Fortune Magazine, and The New Republic have all featured Asian American successes in several of their articles. (13:2)

There is no doubt that there is an Asian American uniform myth of success. America should understand that this myth of success is very real for many people. This myth would seem like a compliment to most Asian Americans, but it is actually an insult that has hurt the Asian American people.

This myth exists because of the Asian culture, the misrepresentation in statistics, and the misrepresentation in the media. America has also used this myth to discount some of the many problems that plague Asian Americans.

Many Asian American people have a tremendous drive to excel. Asian culture stresses hard work and high academic achievement. Many stories exist about young children killing themselves because they did not make A's in school. (11:3)

In Okinawa, Japan, children go to school 6 days a week, and they get only 2 weeks off for the summer. In the United States, Korean mothers have been known to move into college dormitories with their sons during final exam time. The mothers do all the cooking and cleaning so that the sons can spend more time preparing for tests.

Many statisticians have used this tremendous drive to excel as an excuse to misrepresent some facts about Asian Americans. One of the first things taught in introductory statistics is that correlation is not causation. It is also one of the first things forgotten and one of the most widely ignored facts in public policy research. (1:14)

Many statistics show Asian Americans as having more family income than the average American. (3:A143) What these statistics do not show is that most Asian American families are larger than the average American family and the average Asian American tends to work more hours than the average American. (12:4 ) (8:3)

Many statistics show that Asian Americans continuously score higher on achievement tests. (3:A143) (9:14) What these statistics fail to mention is that those Asian Americans that do not pass an English proficiency test are not allowed to take those achievement tests.

So, only the best qualified people are allowed to take the tests that are used in those surveys. (12:4) Those Asian Americans that do not have a command of the English language are completely discounted.

Asian Americans are not only misrepresented in statistics, but also in the media. For many years, the media have been interested in promoting their own agenda as opposed to showing facts. The media are often more concerned with ratings than they are with portraying the truth. The media normally show other minorities as problem people.

Hispanics are seen as lazy, poor low riders who brought drugs into this country. African-Americans are seen as drug dealers and welfare mothers. Native Americans are seen as savages. At the same time, Asian Americans are seen as wimpy, intelligent, harmless nerds. (4:11 ) (5:1)

Asian Americans are also stereotyped in print. The "Beetle Bailey" comic strip has a character named Corporal Yo. While Corporal Yo is seen as highly efficient and intelligent, he is constantly ignored by his peers and portrayed as a nerd.

Because of inaccurate portrayals in statistics and the media, Asian Americans have been negatively impacted by this model minority myth. They have a harder time getting into the best colleges. …

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