The report had many commendable aspects, including presenting new data on the six largest Asian American groups, adding to our knowledge from past demographic studies andsurveys. It presented a trove of graphs, maps, and tables for the largest national-origin groups. Unfortunately, it also prioritized questions asked of Asian Americans -- regarding their parenting styles and their own stereotypes about Americans -- that seemed more concerned with Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother than with the priorities of Asian Americans themselves, either as revealed in past surveys or as articulated by organizations serving those communities. And the demographic analysis did not adequately cover national origin groups whose economic outcomes are far less promising.
More concerning than the Pew report, however, was the sensationalist headline on the press release that introduced the study to news media: Asians Overtake Hispanics in New Immigrant Arrivals; Surpass US Public in Valuing Marriage, Parenthood, Hard Work. These few words carried sway in hundreds of newspaper articles in the first two days of the report’s release, provoking outrage among broad swaths of the Asian American community, including many researchers, elected officials, and community organizations.
As one of 15 advisors to the project, I felt blindsided by the press release. Words failed me as I read it for the first time, as we had not gotten a chance to review it. The dominant narrative in the release reinforced the frame of Asians as a model minority, stereotypes that the advisors had strongly objected to in the only meeting of the group two months ago. What we contested in private then, and what others are challenging in public now, is a monolithic frame that often renders invisible the struggles of many who fall under the Asian American label.
What made this press release particularly troubling, however, were the invidious comparisons it seemed to invite, of a racial group that is overtaking Hispanics and other Americans in a metaphorical race for national supremacy. As many critics have rightly noted, this zero-sum frame has been invoked time and again since its formal articulation in 1966 -- when Japanese and Chinese Americans were valorized in relation to other minority groups, and yet still viewed as perpetually foreign. And the model minority myth has often had detrimental effects, from inviting resentment and violence against Asian Americans to masking problems internal to the group.
Click link for whole article: When Words Fail: Careful Framing Needed in Research on Asian Americans | Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics