“His policies won’t affect us. Why do you care so much?” I heard many people from my hometown say shortly after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president. I didn’t realize it then but for the first time in my life, I had to rethink my privilege (privilege I never even realized I had) and how it affects my fellow minorities.
I am Asian American and from a predominantly Asian-American community in Southern California. I’ve known my entire life that I have to work twice as hard as my White counterparts to garner the same respect, to get the same job––and mine is not a unique experience.
As with other children of immigrants, I was told to keep my head down and mind my own business. My parents told me that the only things that I’ve earned are the things that I’ve worked for. But after the 2016 presidential election, I had to reconsider why these messages are harmful to our community and to others.
The Asian “model minority” myth is a pervasive stereotype, a byproduct of colonialism and racism. American racism has crafted the myth that Asian Americans are naturally inclined to succeed because we work harder than other
minority groups. It has weaponized our stories of success to tear other minorities down.
At Harvard, Asian Americans have been exploited in a transparent attempt to dissolve Affirmative Action. In 1974, writer Frank Chin said of Asian Americans, “Whites love us because we’re not Black.”
The Asian-American community’s apathy toward the blatant persecution of undocumented immigrants and Black poverty is borne out of the myth that we are more hardworking and thus more deserving of our success.
But with a closer look, it is obvious that this is an intentionally harmful ethos. In truth, people with Southeast Asian heritage are more likely to be afflicted by poverty and crime than East Asians. And just this year, Trump has ordered the deportation of several Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees from the Vietnam War.
When Trump says he will deport undocumented immigrants, he also means us. Our proximity to Whiteness has given us a sense of safety, but we will never be White. We are vulnerable, just like other minorities are.
We need to stop the appropriation of our success by White America to oppress the Black-American and Latino-American communities. We are not more deserving of respect, success or empathy. We are all immigrants or children of immigrants.
Asian Americans must take a hard stance against the racism and xenophobia that plagues the United States. Trump’s policies affect Asian Americans, but even if they didn’t we would still have a responsibility to utilize our unique privilege to help uplift our minority friends.