In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, here are 14 photos that shatter the myth of Asians as the 'model minority' in the U.S. APAHM
These photos upend the idea of Asians as the “model minority” in the U.S.
― agroup whose diligent work, personal responsibility and success proved that the American dream was attainable to all. It turns out, the label didn’t tell the full story.As a new exhibition at the, young Asian Americans of the time were busy writing their
ownnarrative and protesting just like their Black and Chicano counterparts. Through protest and art, they denounced the Vietnam War and refused to be pigeonholed as model minorities who could easily overcome systemic barriers.“Beginning in the late 1960s, Asian-Americans nationwide were building social service institutions and feminist collectives, marching against the war, critiquing and sometimes even trying to overthrow the U.S. government,” said Ryan Wong, one of the curators of the exhibition “Roots: Asian American Movements in Los Angeles 1968–80s.”
According to Wong, it’s no coincidence that the term “model minority” was being coined around the same time theAsian-American movementwas radicalizing a generation of young people. Groups of Asians protesting for their rights wasn’t the story most media outlets or social theorists wanted to acknowledge. headtopics.com
“The ‘model minority’ idea was used as a weapon against the social movements of the civil rights era, suggesting that activism wasn’t necessary if a group could only ‘work harder,’” he said.The Asian-American movement chronicled in the exhibition shatters that myth, he added.
Asian Pacific American Photographic Collection Visual Communications ArchivesCommunity activistMike Muraseat the first Asian American anti-war rally in Los Angeles, 1970.Told through photographs, posters and oral histories, “Roots” shows how Asian-Americans formed civil rights organizations at colleges like UC Berkeley, fought against gentrification and ultimately banded together to form a new pan-Asian political identity.
“Until about 1968, you either identified with your country of origin ― mostly China, Japan, and the Philippines at that point ― or were lumped under theterm ‘Oriental,’” Wong said.By the late 1960s and early 1970s, Asian-Americans of different ancestral countries recognized their shared history of racial discrimination and realized they’d have a stronger voice together.
“That idea spread like wildfire across campuses and organizing centers nationally, which is amazing in a time before social media,” Wong said.Asian Pacific American Photographic Collection Visual Communications ArchivesAn anti-war march in 1972.For many, the headtopics.com
was an obvious entry point into activism. Unlike the mainstream anti-war movement, many Asian-American activists perceived the United States’ participation in the war as a form of imperialism.Others saw parallels between the treatment of the Vietnamese abroad and the incarceration of
, according to Steve Wong, the chief curator at the museum.“Warhelped unify Asian Americans. It connected anti-imperialist movements in South East Asia to the oppression of Asians in the U.S.,” Steve explained. “Aduring this time was ‘NoVietnameseever called me a Chink.’ Asians brought attention to the racialized component to the
VietnamPhotograph by Alan Ohashi. Asian Pacific American Photographic Collection, Visual Communications Archives"Asian-American” is an identity created through activism, curator Ryan Wong said.Some pieces in the exhibition reveal a more radical side of the movement, like the
Panthers–inspired “Year of the People/Off the Pigs.”Riffing on 1971 as the year of the pig in the Chinese zodiac, the illustration shows Asian-Americans attacking what they perceived as oppressive power structures in their community ― far from “model minority” behavior. headtopics.com
It’s an illustration that can be shocking if you’ve never heard about early activism in Asian communities. Let’s face it: Asian-Americans might be thein the United States, but their complicated history in American society tends to get the short shrift.
Courtesy of Jeff Chop“If you’re like me, you were never taught this history in school and never saw it depicted in TV shows, movies or newspapers,” said exhibition curator Ryan, who grew up in Los Angeles in 1990s. Read more: HuffPost »
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Pretty interesting. They have Asian privilege. RaceBaiting machine
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