Discuss the term "model minority". How does the media reinforce the model minority image (provide examples)? What problems are experienced by a group when they are labeled a model minority?
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The media can reinforce the image of the model minority by focusing on instances of high achievement among that particular minority. We heard a lot, at one point, about the work ethic of Koreans and their propensity to open their own businesses and push hard to succeed. We also hear about the "tiger mother." Both of these are positive portrayals of a "model minority."
People from such groups can experience problems since they may be stigmatized as caring about nothing but getting ahead. This can make them less able to have normal social lives among peers from other groups.
Model minority is when specific members of a minority are labeled according to the success reached based upon the fact that the minority has a higher degree of success then the overall average in a population.
The problems members of a minority may face is when it comes to the expectations they are expected to uphold based upon the stereotypes the few successes have had. For example, a Chinese person is stereotypically regarded as excelling at math and science. If a Chinese person is not good at math, they receive the negative reaction based upon the stereotypes held.
The media have often portrayed Asian Americans as "the model minority," partly because many Asian Americans have excelled scholastically.
This stereotype can put pressure on Asian Americans who do not excel scholastically or who, in any other ways, fail to fit media stereotypes of members of "the model minority."
Some Asian Americans resent the stereotypes and actively resist them.
Colleges and universities are in the business of recruiting the best students they can attract to study on their campuses. However, some programs have faced challenges when they admit large numbers of Asian students to their math or science major programs, for example. These schools have been accused of discriminating against other ethnic groups that aren't perceived as having as high of an ability or achievement record. Some "model minority" students may chose to not reveal their actual ethnic background on applications in order to avoid becoming involved in this type of dilemna.
The problem with the concept of "model minority" is the way in which minorities can actually become stereotyped as a result. By praising one aspect or characteristic of such a minority you are actually helping to promote and sustain stereotypes that may not actually reflect the minority as a whole and which could cause problems later on.
Another problem with casting many Asians as the "model minority," which emphasizes their successes, is that it tends to hold up the achievements of second or third generation folks, those whose families are well-established, while obscuring many of the challenges faced by first-generation immigrants from the same ethnic groups. The successes of the former group are held up as examples that minimize the need for social assistance for new immigrants. In reality, most recent immigrants from Vietnam or the Korean peninsula, for example, are among the poorest in America. The model minority status afforded many Asian people minimizes their struggles, and even suggests in a way that they are responsible for bringing them on themselves.
It is partly human nature to try to label and classify groups and individuals because there is a tendency to believe that labels and classifications are equal to understanding (most often not the case). The stereotypes the media reinforces with regards to "model minorities" are not always harmful to a plural society like modern day America, but they can be.
There are several problems with the idea of the model minority. Let me name a few of them. First, as was suggested above, it is a stereotype. This will shape the culture's perceptions and pigeon hole a whole group. Second, we need to realized that this term is actually something that those in power created. So, it is imposed. This is a form of "violence." Third, by labeling someone as a model minority, you are able to use this against other minorities who might not be "model." Again there is subtle power play.
It also becomes harder for individuals to pursue success on their personal merits when they are lumped in with others as a model. If you are trying to succeed, the last thing you want is for people to dismiss your work as being "typical" of your ethnic or other group. Generally, people want to be recognized for their individual merits.
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