If you are South Asian American and perpetuate anti-Blackness, you have fallen prey to an oppressive tactic of the United States government, the concept of “model minorities.”
To combat anti-Blackness, we need to understand the history behind the term “model minority.” In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the Immigration and Nationality Act, prioritizing “individuals with specialized skills” in the immigration processes. Consequently, the only South Asians allowed to immigrate to America were exceedingly intelligent and/or talented in a specific discipline. By only allowing the “best” South Asians to enter the country, the U.S. government predetermined the South Asian immigrant population to be successful.
On the other hand, people from the African diaspora were forcibly brought to the U.S. through the transatlantic slave trade. They had no choice to come to America, let alone indulge in the opportunity to learn and develop special skills to “prove their worth.” Therefore, South Asian Americans were systematically supported to be more successful, making the U.S. government consider them a model minority. However, this detrimental approach to immigration policy allowed our government to rest on their laurels and believe that their work in supporting South Asian Americans was advancing the mission of all inclusivity and diversity in the U.S.
Meanwhile, African Americans, who were forced into immigrating and were not given the right resources to become successful, continued to be oppressed and struggled to survive. The African-American community fought through chattel slavery, Jim Crow, redlining and now police brutality, while the media painted South Asian Americans as good, law-abiding citizens. When African Americans engaged in protests to merely exist as equals in U.S. society, South Asian Americans benefited off of their “model minority” status, playing into the government’s hands, even if it meant turning a blind eye to the continued oppression of their fellow peoples of color.
You might be thinking, “Just because I’m not Black doesn’t mean I don’t experience racism.” The difference here is that the racism that we, as South Asian Americans, have faced and continue to face is not institutionalized and not as rampantly widespread and maintained across U.S. government policies as racism that Black Americans face.
Now, more than ever, the South Asian-American community has the opportunity to reject the model minority messaging. One of the officers abetting the murder of George Floyd was Asian American, and we, as a minority population and a part of the larger Asian community, have a responsibility to strongly condemn this anti-Blackness and racism. The Asian-American population has long played a major role in the United States’ systematic racism: Now is the time to fight back.
Anushka Srinivasan was born and raised in Los Altos.