Perspective: “Real Asian”

The Model Minority Myth’s effect on the younger generation of Asian Americans


As an Asian American, I am no stranger to the Model Minority Myth. The Model Minority Myth is a stereotype that classifies Asians as a minority group of high achievers. At first glance, it may seem like a “positive” stereotype. However, this illusion could not be further from the truth. The myth has set an unrealistic standard, especially when it comes to academics, for many Asian American students, including myself. 

Growing up in an ethnically diverse area like Palo Alto, I am fortunate to say that my personal experiences with this myth have not been as extreme as some of my peers in other parts of the country. I believe that my early childhood steered relatively clear of the effects of the myth. However, as soon as I began high school, it became more prevalent in my life. 

During my freshman year, I opted to sign up for the STEM classes that lacked the glorified “Honors” in their names. Despite my satisfaction with my academic success in these courses, my peers bombarded me with demeaning comments. “Aren’t you Asian? Shouldn’t you be in the Honors lane?” they said, quickly diminishing my pride in my accomplishments. 

I tried to make up for my lack of advanced classes in my early high school years by taking harder classes my junior year. However, this took a bigger toll on my mental health than any of the comments from my peers. Juggling my extracurriculars and advanced classes this year required significant adjustment, but I have been able to feel content with my academic standing.

Even though I found ways to adapt and adjust to my heavier course load, it was at the risk of my own well-being, and I do not believe that it was necessarily the best risk to take. Trying to live up to the expectations of the myth lead to sacrifices in other aspects of my life. I had to give up things I enjoyed such as reading, drawing, and spending time with loved ones. I slowly found myself spending more and more time at home studying for tests, perfecting projects, and doing homework all so I could prove to everyone that I was a “real Asian.”

I had to learn the hard way that it is impossible to live up to a false reality that stereotypes such as the Model Minority Myth have created. To reduce the amount of situations where Asian American students feel the need to live up to a certain standard we, as a society, need to create positive learning environments for our Asian students and dismantle the falsehoods the Model Minority Myth places on a huge proportion of students. While support from our peers and school district will help with this issue, it all starts within ourselves and realizing that we, as Asians, should not adhere to unrealistic standards at the risk of our well-being.

Art by Audrey Guo