The Problem with Being a Model Minority

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

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

Produced by:

Miranda Shafer


More in:

News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.


About Talk to Me

Talk to Me brings you downloadable readings and conversations with writers, artists, and scholars – from author Joshua Ferris to choreographer Mark Morris to poet Sharon Olds – recorded at cultural institutions in New York City and beyond. Stream, download, or subscribe to the full-length podcasts here.


Supported by