The Ideal Asian

by ABurnett on October 19, 2015 - 11:38pm

On October 16th, New York Times writer Bernadette Lim took apart microaggressive Asian stereotypes found in mainstream culture with her insightful article, "Model Minority" Seems Like a Compliment, but It Does Great Harm. Lim discusses how seemingly positive stereotypes such as always working hard and 'being better at math' actually causes more harm than good to Asian-American people. They clump all Asian groups into one large category and originated as a way to sensationalise people of colour and raise the expectations non-white citizens need to perform at to be taken seriously in society. There has also been proof found to indicate college admissions from Asian students are judged more harshly compared to other racial groups applying for identical enrolment. Lim refers to these attitudes as just one more way people of colour are judged unfairly in mainstream culture.


Not only do these ideas create unrealistic expectations to succeed, but they gloss over the struggles  people are currently facing by painting an entire group as 'well-off' which can lead to people to believe racism is over and done with. Asian students who don't do as well as their peers are often commented on and have to deal with societal pressure other races don't. It also puts all 'Asians' into one category despite how many cultures really make up the continent. The Super Smart Asian trope is also especially troubling in that it usually effects children in school. From a young age Asian children face pressure -usually teasingly- about how smart they should be. Multiple studies like those discussed by Winkler in 'Children are Not Colorblind' prove that children are aware of racial differences at a very young age. Hearing ideas like these repeated almost daily are part of what creates these issues. Because it is a 'positive' stereotype, people may feel it's ok to perpetuate them or use them jokingly, but anytime a group is singled out, it creates a divide. Treating people as anything other than normal people with diverse interests and issues is problematic -these are human beings, not ideas.



Lim, B. (2015, Oct. 16). "Model Minority" Seems Like a Compliment, but It Does Great Harm. The New York Times. Retrieved from


I found the topic of your article response, “The Ideal Asian,” to be really fascinating and I think that it was a terrific idea to write about. Of all the responses I scrolled through, this particular one stood out to me the most because I have always been curious as to why Asians are always labelled as intelligent. Growing up, I believed this stereotype to be true as well because of how I would hear people talk about this particular racial group. However, when I entered high school and got to know many people with Asian heritages, I began to see that the idea of all Asians being intelligent is completely false. I learned that race in no way defines behavior. Since this discovery, I have found it to be completely unfair for people to make this assumption. While it may not be considered discrimination, it still can potentially cause great damage to Asians mentally since it puts a lot of unfair expectations on this racial group. I, myself, have always been a perfectionist and someone who places a lot high expectations on herself when it comes to academics, however, I cannot imagine what it must be like to have high expectations from almost everyone around you to do really well academically. I do not think I would be able to handle that amount of stress; it is already hard for me to deal with the weight of expectations I put on myself. Because of this, I feel really connected to this topic.

After thoroughly reading your response, I completely agree that society has created a culture for the Asian population in America, a culture that may lead them to think that they are meant to be intelligent and mathematical geniuses, however, all this really does is cause them unnecessary stress to become something that may not be in their nature. When people tell them that they are supposed to be smart because they are Asian, and they do not necessarily meet those standards of “smart,” it only causes them to think lowly of themselves for that. This, in itself, is almost as bad as racism since it has a similar impact on the individuals because it makes them believe that they possess certain qualities that do not necessarily have. Even if they are simply only ‘teased’ about being geniuses, that itself is enough to give Asians false assumptions about themselves, even from a young age. Erin N. Winkler also said in her 2009 article, “Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn About Race,” that children are able to identify racial categories as young as three years old. In other words, Asians may start to label and categorize themselves based on stereotypes when they are still that young. If parents were to teach their children that all Asians being intelligent is merely a stereotype, then it would likely reduce the future expectations that Asians would have to deal with and therefore remove the stress for them to be something that they may not be. However, most parents are afraid to so much as mention the idea of ‘race’ since they believe it will cause their children to develop racial biases when the truth is that children generally develop their own racial biases when their parents do not help give them a clear understanding of races. Based on all of this information, the real question that we need to ask ourselves is why everyone is labelled based on their own racial characteristics when those labels are most often untrue. If anything, all children should be taught in school from a young age that making assumptions about people based on their race is wrong and only causes harm to others. If most North Americans truly say that they live in a society with racial equality, then they should start acting like they do!

I really like how you approached racism on a completely new level - people don't usually concentrate on racism towards the Asian population. Also, it is very interesting to see how something we found harmless can actually cause a great deal of harm for these young Asians. But could it be different if we approached this from a perspective where gender is taken into consideration?

Black women face different types of stereotypes as black men, as it may be the case for Asians. Black masculinity is often associated with sports, like basketball and football, violence and animalistic behavior. There is a fine line of violence that black men have to travel to be accepted in all spheres of society. In the poorer areas, gang members roam the streets and if a black male is not violent enough for them, he is considered weak and is targeted by these gangs, which could definitely endanger their lives. On the other hand, if they want to protect themselves by being overly violent, they risk being shot by police officers who interpret their behavior as dangerous. Either way, their lives end up being threatened. This is a very disconcerting issue that women do not have to face, since they are deemed docile creatures from birth. From experiencing the Internet, could it be possible that male Asians have more pressure to succeed, and to become doctors and engineers, or is it simply another stereotype found in the depth of the web?

Your post has caught my attention because racism taking form in seemingly positive ways like the usage of the term "model minority" that you decided to talk about isn't often discussed. When the subject of racism is brought up, we normally mention blatantly negative stereotypes such as Asian men being not at all well-endowed, black people being aggressive and etc. Asian people lack size when it comes to their genitals and black people lack composure and morals. It is only when people talk about these lacks that it is acknowledged that it is a negative stereotype. However, in my opinion, there is no such thing as a "positive stereotype," even when it comes to a surplus or a possession of a quality like the stereotype of labeling Asians as academically intelligent. The fact that Asians are considered a model minority isn't only harmful because it puts pressure on them academically, but also for a lot of other reasons concerning genders that I thought you might be interested about. There has been a recent "phenomenon" called "yellow fever," which is basically about Caucasian men developing a preference for Asian women. The main reason why Asians are called the "model minority" is because they are mainly perceived as quiet, calm and most importantly obedient. Did you ever wonder why the phenomenon of "yellow fever" only consisted of Asian women being popular and not Asian men being popular? The main reason to this is because in the patriarchal society that we live in, women have to be submissive, quiet and obedient to men. People might wonder why it disadvantages Asian women to be considered desirable partners and these people have to realize that "yellow fever" is especially harmful to Asian women as they become a resultant of a perverted fantasy of men that they are submissive, silent women, who can be told what to do and who can be silenced, by men. Here is an interesting link you might want to read about if you are interested in the subject of "yellow fever": On the other hand, Asian men also suffer from this stereotype because silent and submissive traits in men are not at all ideal in hegemonic masculinity idealized in patriarchal societies. The man box includes traits such as domineering, violent, strong and shockingly, intelligent and nice aren't mentioned in there. Sorry Asian guys, but being intelligent won't do you any good with the ladies! You probably have noticed this by all the stereotypical undesirable nerdy Asian boys portrayed in Hollywood like Sixteen Candles’ Lond Duk Dong. If you want to find more about this man box and hegemonic masculinity that I was talking about, this link might be interesting.

I’m choosing to comment on this post because it’s a very interesting one. Many people do think that Asians are the most intelligent race, and it’s one of the most prominent features of their stereotype. It’s interesting to see an article written on this issue, and it’s even more interesting to see your interpretation towards it, and even to know your personal stories related to this issue.
I agree with you and the author Bernadette Lim in her article "Model Minority" Seems like a Compliment, but It Does Great Harm.” A stereotype, no matter how flattering it may seem, doesn’t do good for anyone’s self-esteem. By teaching someone who’s Asian of this stereotype, the one to be smart, it teaches them that they have to be smart. When someone who’s Asian gets a bad grade, they then feel as if they’re not as good as they can be. Linnaeus described Asians as “yellow, melancholy, and greedy.” True, there’s no word about them being smart, but any kind of stereotype, whether it be that they’re always intelligent or that they’re greedy, is a destructive thought.
In conclusion, I agree that stereotypes, whether they be positive or negative, should be destroyed. It doesn’t help or benefit anyone in anyway. The biggest question here is how heavily these stereotypes have influenced certain people’s career choices. If Asians weren’t expected to succeed as greatly as they’re currently expected to, would there be a decline in Asian doctors, and other high paying professions?

I felt the need to response to your post because I can easily relate to this topic. Being an Asian myself, I have experienced these racial stereotypes, which, as you mentioned, put all Asians in the same basket ignoring the differences that can actually occur. This means that if a child sees that a certain race should act a certain way because of these stereotypes, he or she will then memorize it and believe that this generalization is true. As we learned in class, one factor that explains why children attach meaning to races is the biological one. In other words, as children's brains develop, it is more prone to stereotypes. Furthermore, I agree with you when you say that Asian students who do not fit in the stereotypes of being excellent at school can be discriminated because of it. In fact, I believe that this is a good example of individual racism, which consists of a form of racial discrimination that stems from conscious, personal prejudice. In this case, we can see that race is socially constructed since these beliefs were created by us, humans. With that said, these stereotypes led to the assumptions that Asians are successful in what they do, especially because of all the pressure put on them. Thus, do you think that this supposition is true or only a stereotype also create by society?

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