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Professor Gary Mar 
Philosophical Issues in Asian American Studies 

 
A stereotype is the imposition of an unfair depiction of a particular group (usually defined by ethnicity, race, class, or gender) resulting in the systematic disadvantage of members of that group and/or members of an implicit comparison class. 

      Context
      Text
      Subtext
1960s  Civil Rights Movement The term "model minority" is first used in print in the New York Times Magazine (Jan. 6, 1960) in "Success Story: Japanese American Style" by sociologist William Peterson.  He argues that Japanese culture with its family values and strong work ethic saved Japanese from becoming a "problem minority."  A similar article using Chinese Americans appears in U. S. News and World Report (Dec. 26, 1960).  The "Model Minority" thesis is used to discredit the Civil Rights movement.  If one minority is singled out as "model", then this implise other monorities are not. The stereotype is used to pit one minority against another using the mechanisms of "racist hate" and "racist love."

1970s  U. S. loses Vietnam War.  Southeast Asian refugees take over American jobs.  Japanese auto industry muscles out Detroit.   Articles on model minorities have sidebars expressing the white resentment of Asian American success.  The "Model Minority" thesis used to accuse whites of becoming soft.  Whites are afraid of economic competition with Asia.

1980s  Reaganonics and the "Winter of Civil Rights".  In 1984 Reagan cites that the median household income for Asian Americans is higher than the national average. 

                1980         1990 
APAs    $22,075   $42,250 
Whites  $20,840    $36,920 

Can you think of why these statistics are seriously misleading? 

Articles of model minorities such as Newsweek's "The Drive to Excel" (April 1984) and Time's "The New Whiz Kids" (August 1987) start to focus on Asian American success in school. 

All Asians are lumped together-- American Borns, older immigrants, 1.5 generation immigrants, and refugees displaced by social chaos. 
 

The "Model Minority" thesis is used to attack Affirmative Action programs for minorities and other advances of the Civil Rights period. 
 

The "Model Minority" thesis is used to justify fiscal cutbacks. 
 


1990s 

SAT Scores 1992 

       Verbal      Math
All                              423     476 
APAs                        413     532 
Black                         352     385 
Native Am.               395     442 
Euro-Am.                  442     491 
Mexican-Am            372     425 
Puerto Ricans          366     406 
Articles on model minorities focus on entrepreneurial success and start to include European and Latino immigrants. 

The Washington Post (June 1992) publishes "Myth of Model Minority Haunts Asian Americans: Stereotype Eclipses Group's Problems." 

Murray and Herrnstein publish The Bell Curve (1994) which argues that Asian Americans and Jews are genetically superior to African Americans. 

The "Model Minority" thesis is used to accuse Americans of losing the "hardworking immigrant spirit." 

The "Model Minority" myth is exposed as a social construct that denies many Asian Americans access to much needed social services. 

The "Model Minority" thesis is grounded biologically or genetically ("ethnic essentialism") and is used to rationaize racism in standardized intelleigence tests



 
Journal #4. 
Analyzing the Statistics about the "Model Minority"
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
    -- Benjamin Disraeli
"Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write."
  -- H. G. Wells

. . . . 

       Based on the 1970 census President Reagan's statistics about the median income of Asian Americans could be misleading because the 1970 census data was over generalized and inaccurate.  Many factors were overseen and left out, and the data was not studied greatly in depth.  The data concerning the median income of Asian American families were clearly misleading, due to three factors.  What was discovered was that, although the median income of Asian American families was higher than that of white families, the median income of individuals was found to be lower for Asians than for whites.  These three factors were excised from the equation in the 1970 census, and they are as follows: 

    • There was a larger proportion of Asian families in which both spouses worked than among white families.
    • Asian children remained with their families longer and thereby contributed longer to family income.
    • Asian families were larger on the average and, therefore, had more earners contributing to family income.
             It is not until the 1980 census that scholars have come up with more accurate data since more sophisticated studies have been done on the census.  Prior to the 1980 census, many more variables were left out as well. 

          . . .Asian Americans actually tend to be under compensated in terms of the number of years that they have invested in their education. 

          More importantly, Asian Americans are a heterogeneous group.  The median income does not give information about the spread of incomes around the mean.  Suppose, for example, that the distribution of incomes is bimodal.  How would the average median income be misleading? 

           For those of you who want a good laugh, ask Grace Hsu to look at her solution. 

 

 
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