In November 2013, the San Jose Mercury News released information about a serious hate crime against a black frosh student that occurred in his eight person suite perpetuated by four white students. Students were outraged by the news and took action with rallies, protests, hosting speakers, and school board task force meetings in order to tackle the issue of race and diversity on our campus.
I recall that semester when the news of the incident broke out; I was mortified. I knew our campus wasn’t perfect, and that racism was still very much an issue in our society; yet, I could not believe a crime this extreme could happen so close to home. San Jose State University has been a place of safety for me – a space that I felt was at least open to students of color, and had tolerance for different racial groups. I could have never expected a crime like this to occur on my campus, and it questioned my sense of safety and security in this university.
A few weeks after the news broke out, I attended a discussion meeting hosted by an API (Asian and Pacific Islander) student organization that facilitated a conversation about people’s feelings toward the incident. To my surprise, many of the students shared feelings of disconnect, of uninterest. I heard one person say, “I don’t connect with this issue. It doesn’t really relate to me.”
I was very surprised by this reaction – how could anyone not see the grave injustice of this incident? How could anyone not care about this? It didn’t make sense to me.
API Americans have historically lived under the socialized culture of the Model Minority complex, which Wikipedia defines as a minority group whose members are most often perceived to achieve a higher degree of success than the population average. This success is typically measured in income, education, and related factors such as low crime rate and high family stability.
Societal norms continuously perpetuate the stereotypes of Asian Americans, and South Asian Americans – that we’re good at math, we’re hardworking, we become engineers and doctors.
The notions that aren’t discussed in this, however, is how it can silence not only issues within the API community but create difference between API people and other communities. The idea perpetuated behind this is that API people have supposedly surpassed racial disparities, and that social issues of poverty, health, and more don’t exist in API communities (newsflash – they do).
Furthermore, this tells people that other communities, such as black and Latinx* communities, are told to work harder like us APIs. That if they just try hard enough, that they can be as good as we are. This promotes sociological norms such as Anti-blackness in a lot of API communities.
Essentially, the white man is telling us to stay silent, and we’ll give you what you want.
However, society fails to discuss the economic and social disparities in the API community, that are similar to those perpetuated in black and Latinx communities. API people who are influenced into the Model Minority complex want to be compared to the standard of success; the standard set by white people.
As a result, API Americans have historically distanced themselves from other people of color. This makes them content to social injustice, and resistant to act for change. API Americans are continuously complacent in matters of social justice, and I believe this is a result of white supremacy that influences people down the line.
API Americans need to stop sitting around and allowing things to happen. We need to stop normalizing violence and injustice not only in our communities, but also other communities of color. Solidarity is necessary and important in reaching social change.
by ZAIN AHMED
*Latinx is spelled as such so as not to me either male or female centric (ie, not Latino or Latina)