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Discussing Asian and Asian-American Discrimination with Your Children

There is a misconception here in American known as the Model Minority Myth. It labels Asian Americans as a unique subgroup of minorities who “achieve universal and unparalleled academic and occupational success” (Museus, King 2009). According to Learning For Justice, the Model Minority Myth: “perpetuates a narrative in which Asian American children are whiz kids or musical geniuses. Within the myth of the model minority, Tiger Moms force children to work harder and be better than everyone else, while nerdy, effeminate dads hold prestigious—but not leadership—positions in STEM industries like medicine and accounting.” 

This myth is dangerous for a multitude of reasons. The first being that it fails to acknowledge the Asian American experience, which has not always been positive. Just to look at a few historical references, there was the time in 1882 where our Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prevented Asians from immigrating  simply on the basis of race. This was followed by the "Chinese Must Go" movement, which created a sharp decline in Chinese immigration, even though people of Chinese descent accounted for nearly 20% of the workforce in places like California. In 1924, Asians were excluded by law, denied citizenship, and banned from owning land. This also included a ban on marrying caucasians. And we must also remember the Japanese internment camps during WWII. It was not until 1965, during the civil rights movements that Asians, along with African Americans, were given more rights.Only in 1980 did Japanese Americans receive  slight reparation for their experiences during WWII. These are just a few of the negative events that Asian Americans have experienced in this country.

While at times it feels we have come so far, we are again reminded that there is much work to do as we watch the Asian community face a wave of new hate crimes and targeted, violent, and lethal attacks. The scapegoating used during COVID to blame a country and community for a global pandemic has monumentaily increased the number of assaults against Asians worldwide. Just two days ago, in Georgia, eight individuals lost their lives simply because of their ethnicity, their culture, and their Asian identities. 

At ISDenver, we celebrate cultures, languages, and nations that bring diversity to our school. Specifically, we celebrate, honor, and learn from Chinese culture. Whether it be through our thriving Mandarin language program or our families and faculty from a variety of Asian backgrounds, we stand by our Asian and Asian American teachers, staff, and families. I have spoken a lot with our 4th - 8th graders about stereotypes and bias. In particular, and quite fitting to the minority myth, we discuss how even positive, seemingly non hurtful stereotypes such as being a “whiz kid” create a dangerous bias and generalization. When we stereotype a group of people based on culture, race, nationality, or gender, we fail to see the heterogeneity, we fail to celebrate the differences, and we fail to recognize the positives in diversity.

Below, I share some ideas and resources for talking to your children about recent hate crimes and discrimination against not only the Asian American community, but others as well.

Talking Point with Your Children:

  • Take time to talk about the positive contributions of Asian Americans. I recommend these books that are grouped by age level. The more our children normalize books with diverse characters that reflect people that don’t always look like them, the less likely they are to accept stereotypes.
     
  • Make relevant comparisons. Many of our older children understand the Black Lives Matter movement and a lot of them have a knowledge base about some of the events that happened in this last year with the loss of innocent black lives. Talk about the injustices that many people face in this country. Talk about how they can value differences. Talk about what it means to be an ally to others, and talk about how ISDenver is a safe place to be different from one another and to practice these important values.
     
  • The ADL has a great tip sheet on talking to children about hate crimes and empowering them to feel safe and in control. 
     
  • Lastly, talk about what you can do to support the communities being targeted. From shopping at black owned businesses to reaching out to your Asian American friends and neighbors to check in on them and let them know you care, there are many ways we can support each other.

 

We will continue to be here for your families to help facilitate discussions, check in with your children, and create a safe environment to have these sometimes difficult discussions. Please feel free to reach out if there is anything we can do to support you further. 

 

Resources:

Museus, Samuel D., and Peter N. Kiang. “Deconstructing the Model Minority Myth and How It Contributes to the Invisible Minority Reality in Higher Education Research.” New Directions for Institutional Research, vol. 2009, no. 142, 2009, pp. 5–15., doi:10.1002/ir.292. 

“What Is the Model Minority Myth?” Learning for Justice, www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/what-is-the-model-minority-myth. 

 

  • anti-bias education
  • anti-racism
  • discrimination
  • Restorative Justice
  • SEL
  • social emotional learning

 

 

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