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The Problem with Being a Model Minority

What does the term, "Asian-American," mean?  The Asia Society  invited a diverse group of panelists who reflect the changing face of Asian-Americans in America to tackle the topic.   The panel included the jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, and New York City Controller John C. Liu.

The panel discussed immigration, politics and stereotypes.  They also talked about the challenges that come with being a "model minority."   Because many Asian-Americans have succeeded in the U.S., when the traditional problems that come with being a minority (financial hardship, discrimination) do surface, they are often ignored.

Bon Mots

On the Asian-American identity: The fact of the matter is it's [Asian-American] not an internal identity, it's an externally imposed identity on us.  I was born in Laos and maybe you were born in Korea; at the end of the day, the majority community here often don't distinguishes us from one another.  So we either agitate to say, 'No I'm really different' or we take ownership of the totality of the Asian-American community. 

—Mee Moua, State Senator, Minnesota and the first Hmong American elected to a State Legislature

On what Mom thinks: Even though I am in the White House, my mom still wants me to go to medical school; the dream never dies.

—Christina Lagdameo, Deputy Director, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

On Living a Double Life: For a while I had this classic double life where I was [a] physics grad student by day and a jazz musician by night.  And eventually I just realized where my heart was.  I think that the American dream, of self-actualization, it was just new to us.Vijay Iyer, Composer/Pianist