The Impact of the Model Minority Myth
Even though a myth such as this makes positive assumptions about specific racial minority groups, the problem lies in the fact that it treats members of the group as a monolith rather than individuals. These stereotypes can be highly damaging and harmful in several ways.
“Need for perfectionism, low self-esteem, never feeling good enough, and high expectations from everyone around you are some of the impacts of the model minority myth.”
High expectations can be a source of stress
Due to the model minority myth, Asian Americans are viewed by some as being naturally talented at math or science. These expectations and pressure that results can be overwhelming and impact Asian American mental health. Studies have found that model minority stereotypes can even have a negative impact on school performance among Asian American students.
These and other “positive” stereotypes can sometimes make it difficult for people of the affected racial group to get help and support. For example, an Asian American person struggling with math might be ignored or dismissed when they ask for assistance. This can increase stress and make people feel like they can’t reach out for help, even when they need it. The long-term cumulative effect can be devastating.
It dismisses racism
The model minority myth claims that some minority groups have an elevated status. These beliefs often ignore or don’t acknowledge the racism experienced by members of these groups. When members try to speak up, positive stereotypes are often used to downplay their concerns.
Misconceptions about model minorities can make it harder for people to feel like they’re heard. These views also have the potential to impact government policy and community outreach. When it’s believed or assumed that a group or community is thriving, issues they may face might be largely overlooked.
It puts minority groups in competition with each other
Members of groups described as model minorities are often compared to other minority demographics. The model minority myth has been used to argue against racial equity movements. These arguments can be harmful, particularly when used alongside negative stereotypes about other communities.
Instead of working together to achieve shared goals, members of these Asian American subgroups may see others as competitors. The conflict perpetuates racist beliefs and avoids responsibility for the damage that racism has caused.
Falling short of expectations can lead to guilt and shame
When people don’t live up to the positive stereotypes associated with model minorities, it can significantly impact their self-esteem and even lead to racial trauma. It can cause them to feel like failures or as if they’re not good enough. Members of model minority groups might pressure themselves to excel in specific areas like athletics, math, or science to counter their racial imposter syndrome.
Sometimes, the model minority stereotype can make people feel they need to be perfect to succeed. They also might feel like only certain types of successes matter. For example, someone who excels on an artistic project may feel guilty about their achievement being acknowledged.