As a personal guideline, I always accompany the airing of grievances with constructive suggestions. Quickly, the three things I think allies of #NotYourAsianSidekick should do:
- Be aware of, and speak up against, the Model Minority Myth.
- Stand up against the anti-Muslim backlash. Yes, this includes paternalistic anti-hijab stuff.
- Call for immigration reform.
Be aware of, and speak up against, the Model Minority Myth.
This is totally weird and suspicious coming from someone like me, an East Asian kid from an economically disadvantaged background who nonetheless got good grades and eventually went to both Berkeley and Harvard. But here’s the thing: for every Asian girl like me, there are many, many, many, many Asians who haven’t been able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And that’s not their fault.
Asians get punished in college admissions (particularly private schools). Being Asian is akin to losing 50 points on the SAT (on the old 1600 scale)! But I don’t mean to say that affirmative action itself is bad. If you look at the Princeton study, while African-American and Hispanic applicants might be given an advantage based on race, relative to their SAT score, it’s nothing compared to the advantage that legacy students and athletes receive. I really want to emphasize how problematic the legacy student advantage is: all people of color get screwed over by that one.
I don’t want to debate whether it is right to disadvantage someone like me in admissions. Rather, I want to draw attention to how the model minority stereotype– the vision of someone like me— has harmed other Asian-Americans, particularly South East Asians, Pacific Islanders, and South Asians, who come from different communities with different circumstances. The model minority stereotype casts a penumbra of supposed privilege over a huge group of people who don’t really fit that stereotype.
Finally, it is infuriating that affirmative action policies essentially pit Asian-Americans against black and Hispanic Americans. The worst part is that this is often just a screen to expand white privilege. I’m not just blowing some radical smoke here, I’m talking about the UC Berkeley admissions policy change that happened under the guise of boosting black, Hispanic, and Native American admissions. But it didn’t do that. The statistical effects, when modeled, barely even registered. Its most significant effect was to reduce Asian admissions in favor of white admissions.
The Model Minority stereotype hurts AAPIs, pits minorities against each other, and you know what else? It’s just plain offensive. The emphasis on test scores and academic achievement as a measure of human worth and desert to leave poverty is crazy and dehumanizing.
Stand up against the anti-Muslim backlash.Yes, this includes paternalistic anti-hijab stuff.
I led with the model minority stereotype because it’s fundamental to #NotYourAsianSidekick. But I want to really emphasize this second point, because the discrimination of Muslim AAPIs should be a priority for all AAPIs. In the United States today, against the backdrop of the War on Terror, Muslim-Americans face the worst abuse: religious intolerance, community infiltration by law enforcement, regular violation of civil rights. Worse, this backlash falls on all kinds of dark-skinned Asians, whether they’re actually Muslim or not.
Women in particular get anti-hijab “feminist” rhetoric thrown at them constantly. And yes, the patriarchal implications of hijab are complicated. Guess what else has problematic patriarchal implications? High heels, make-up, push-up bras, designer bags.
You cannot forcibly unveil a woman who made that choice for herself. And don’t talk about hijab like all veiled people are Others, or suspicious, or dangerous. When you hear people talk like that, call them out. It’s not right.
Call for immigration reform.
This is getting a bit long, and I have some exams I need to study for. So I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one. But isn’t this one obvious? US immigration policies impose huge burdens on the AAPI community.
I guess a lot of native-born Americans have no idea how ludicrous immigration policy is right now– please, educate yourselves. Would you like me to send you a link on this? Here: