Edwin (Interview)

We started off by asking Edwin a little about himself and his history, including his experiences encountering the model minority myth. The model minority myth is the myth that Asians as a group are what all minorities and immigrants should strive to be like – living the American dream of creating success for themselves while starting from nothing. While Edwin grew up with parents that wanted him to succeed in academics and piano, he never felt pressure from either of his parents to study or practice long hours which Tiger Mothers – stereotypical Asian mothers – were known to do. Even though he did not get these pressures from home, Edwin started to notice in “…late elementary, early middle school…” that there was “…an assumption…expectation of [getting] high grades…” because he was Asian. The expectations placed on him due to the model minority myth, he reflected on himself because it felt like getting good grades “…was what was natural”.

During the interview Edwin states that he had  a lot of pressure to fit into the model minority myth which helped create a mold for him to fit into. He also talks about academics and he would just naturally perform well in them because he wanted and also liked musical classes. The model minority myth negatively affected him by narrowing his path and in a way forcing him to do so , because he didn’t think he had other options, and then his surroundings, with friends and others did not influence him to explore more around him. Due to how he was raised and the economical status he was a part of he thought that people who struggled academically or economically  needed to work harder and smarter. He then mentioned how he now sees that his thoughts were very “robotic and technical” which fits into the Asian stereotype, he also was very hard on students he tutored because of this type of model minority myth he intended to fit into.

Edwin felt very much dejected about life academically and socially and he wanted to change that up since he was pulling back from his effort and thought about school. He recognized that the model minority was giving him the privilege other students did not have, so he took advantage of this to create an opportunity to help the community. After transferring to East Bay, Edwin realized that there were many systematic issues that became apparent to him. To help make a difference, Edwin decided to tutor the students at his old high school in math and life. Working with different backgrounds allowed Edwin to see what everyone else goes through with a different lense. Creating a community within the classroom allowed him to build a greater community and understanding of everyone. 

Prior to the 1960s, colleges focused on Eurocentric perspectives in academic settings. By the late 1960s, college students developed the Third World Liberation Front (twLF). According to the UC Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender (2020), the twLF was a multiracial coalition of students that formed to demand that Universities acknowledge and validate the history of communities of colors. The work done by the twLF continues to benefit students of color by providing them with Ethnic Studies (ES) courses that look at racial and ethnic experiences in the U.S., through a critical and analytical lens. With this background knowledge, Edwin was asked what role ES has had on his understanding of race and ethnicity. He mentioned that taking Asian American Intimacies and Families, has helped him become more equipped to conceptualize social issues dealing with discrimination and ethnicity through the use literature and discussion. Edwin believes that he has a better understanding of theory as well as the role society has had in creating a “model minority” to systematically oppress other communities of color both historically and currently. 

Edwin believes that the current pandemic has brought up a lot of issues in regards to education and the lifestyle itself. Issues such as underfunding, lacking the ability to adapt to situations or not having any access to useful resources has opened up the eyes of people. Furthermore, Edwin touches upon the current situation happening in Oakland that has been brought up due to COVID-19; over 3-4,000 children have no access to education due to underfunding and lacking resources. He compares this to the privilege he had as a kid and how his school was funded with several million dollars as well as many other resources. As tragic as it is, Edwin mentions how it has brought light to many situations that should’ve been paid attention to long ago. He finds it interesting to live through a hole of a pandemic as it allows us to see a lot of cracks in our society which also exposes us to a large scale of environmental issues. This unfortunate situation has enabled us to value schools, our teachers, resources and had brought a lot of attention to modern day issues such as racism, too. 

From Edwin point he had done some things to develop kinship with other communities of color such as teaching kids at his old high school and tutoring kids math. Although it’s not a deep kinship, Edwin had formed a mutual relationship with the kids that he taught. He had realized their struggles and not everyone can just work hard to get better. Sometimes it’s systematic oppression which keeps some minorities from moving up and having little socioeconomic resources. Tutoring at the place Edwin volunteered is such a great resource for minority kids with disadvantage to catch up with others. As the article “Are Asian Americans White? Or People of Color?” by Bhangal Naseeb and OiYan Poon said, Asian Americans and people of color are in the same boat as each other. Therefore, having a kinship place as a tutoring center for minorities where we can help one another learn would elevate the development of everyone.
To conclude and summarize the work done in this interview, our group focused on three major talking points: personal history and early views on education with respect to Asian Americans and other minority groups, recent education, volunteer and work experiences and how it has affected these prior views, and how COVID-19 has affected such issues. Although not every point was covered in detail, important points that were made clear were the personal experience of an Asian American student and how his prior views of education as a linear pathway where one can simply work harder and smarter to overcome difficulties to one that recognizes societal inefficiencies and different walks of life as being the major factor that inhibit or uplift different groups of people. A point of alleviation brought up, from experience, was the formation of small local communities in classrooms and out to better develop solidarity.

Work Cited

  1. Bhangal, Naseeb, and OiYan Poon. “Analysis: Are Asian Americans White? Or People of 

Color?” Yes! Magazine, 15 Jan. 2020, http://www.yesmagazine.org/social-justice/2020/01/15/asian-americans-people-of-color/.

  1. Center for Race and Gender. (2020). Third World Liberation Front. UC Berkeley.
  2. The Working Lives and Struggles of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in California

Summary: This report reflects the findings of the first comprehensive survey of AAPI California residents, with a special focus on those who are working and struggling with poverty. The report provides a broad portrait of their opinions and experiences.

https://www.prri.org/research/the-working-lives-and-struggles-of-asian-americans-and-pacific-islanders-in-california/

  1. Asians are stereotyped as ‘competent but cold.’ Here’s how that increases backlash from the coronavirus pandemic.

Summary: A description of how racist stereotypes are fueling attacks on Asian Americans and how political rhetoric is accelerating its increase.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/06/asians-are-stereotyped-competent-cold-heres-how-that-increases-backlash-coronavirus-pandemic/

  1. Teaching for Social Justice: (Post-) Model Minority Moments

Summary: This article examines how two Southeast Asian American teachers envision teaching for social justice in order to disrupt the model minority stereotype.

https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1155&context=jsaaea

 

Key Words

  1. Educational Debt: the cumulative impact of fewer resources and other harm directed at students of color.
  2. Campus services: services provided by college campuses that students can use when they need help with personal, social, health, financial or other issues. These services support student success in education and other experiences, as well as enhance students overall growth while in higher education.
  3. Model minority: A model minority is a demographic group whose members are perceived to achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the population average.
  4. Minority group: a minority group refers to a category of people who experience relative disadvantage as compared to members of a dominant social group
  5. Systematic Dehumanization: is a fixed or planned system that strips a group of positive human quality. Make them less human and people will be less sympathetic.
  6. Socioeconomics: relating to or concerned with the interaction of social and economic factors.
  7. Socioeconomic Status: encompasses not just income but also educational attainment, financial security, and subjective perceptions of social status and social class. Socioeconomic status can encompass quality of life attributes as well as the opportunities and privileges afforded to people within society.