The conviction is a much-needed wake up call to those who have been brainwashed to believe the model minority myth. It’s clear evidence that white America still views Asian Americans as “other.” The “Blue wall of silence” does not cover yellow.
Peter Liang’s conviction makes painfully obvious three crucial facts that are necessary to understand the racial circumstances of Asian Americans. (1) American racism includes Asian Americans. (2) Through intentional legislation and campaigning, the white majority has utilized the educational and financial privilege of a portion of Asian Americans to convince society that racism is no longer an issue. (3) Asian Americans themselves have fallen prey to this message, driving a wedge between the Asian American community and other communities of color and weakening our collective power to change the status quo.
The model minority myth has led much of America to believe that through hard work and an unwavering dedication to academic achievement, Asian Americans have achieved the true American dream, supposedly showing that it is not systemic racism but lack of adherence to American work ethic that holds back other communities of color.
While the falsehoods that make up the model minority stereotype and its toxic impacts are too complex and numerous to unpack in their entirety here, exploring a few the issues is necessary. A key misunderstanding is the origin of stereotypes. While most of us recognize that stereotypes are generalizations that cannot be applied to any one individual, we also believe that they spring from a small grain of truth. They represent a generalization of a true trend in behavior or characteristic that is common amongst a group of people.
What this line of reasoning fails to capture is that frequently these behavioral trends are not inherent, but a group of people all responding to a uniform external pressure. For example, the disproportionate number of black athletes in the NBA does not represent an inherent racial ability anymore than the disproportionate number of white athletes in the NHL does. It’s a reflection of the networks and opportunities available to black males in this country. Under the same social restrictions, many black men come to the same conclusion: the only way to make it is to become a professional athlete and the only sports available are basketball and football.