By Judy Song, USC 22'
“Are Asian Americans even people of color?”
As a Korean American, this is a question I have come face to face with at least once in my journey to self-actualization. Because the question seems to just barely scratch the surface of the Asian American identity, I am left confused as to why I can not come up with a simple yes or no answer.
In an article whose title is taken from this daunting question, Chip Chang declares that yes, Asian Americans are people of color. When we analyze Chang’s points about the dangerous belief that certain physical traits are characteristic of Asians, we see that the question is not daunting after all; Asian Americans are people of color. However, the fatal mix of the desire to be closer to “whiteness,” paired with the sweet illusion of the Asian-American success story, makes us buy into the pretense that we are not people of color. In reality, the Asian community often underestimates how our struggles are intricately woven with other racial minorities’ struggles, specifically how our complicity in larger systems of oppression ultimately enables America’s racial class system.
As presented by Chang, the model minority myth is the normalized image of the Asian American: the docile, smart, and successful Asian. However, throughout the 2019 article, Chang challenged us to look beyond our preconceived notion of Asian success, at a time when many of us were not ready, nor willing, to have that conversation. This piece was posted on Medium, a site where anyone can freely contribute, yet it was favorited by just over 2,200 readers who are sure to be an echo chamber of people with similar opinions. Thus, the careful breakdown of the myth and its historical origins became buried under thousands of other articles. Over the last century and similarly in 2019 when Chang attempted to initiate the conversation, the Asian American identity and its relation to the American power structure went overlooked. We, as an Asian community, have become complacent in our supporting role in white America. Yet, the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 served as a rude awakening.