A human calculator. A future doctor or engineer. High intellectual-economical ambitions. Those just one of the many clichés attached to the Asian Americans. And growing up, I had no problem with those stereotypes because I had always perceived them to be positive stereotypes. An image and a connotation of the Asian American population that I was proud of. But as I got older, I started to realize that those stereotypes that I thought of to be positive, were also a handicap.
Dubbed as the “Model Minority”, Asian Americans were expected to be great students of the maths and sciences, get accepted into an Ivy League or a Big Ten school, and then get onto one of the STEM major tracks. Expectations that were placed onto me.
I mean, yes, I was a good student who took tons of AP classes and graduated with a high GPA in high school. I was great at math, but do you know what else I was great at? English, geography, and history. Subjects that most people don’t associate with the Model Minority. I further broke the Model Minority expectations by being terrible at science (except for biology!). It was something I got playfully teased for by my friends.
I then matriculated to UIC as an economics majors, debating whether to take the Pre-Law or Pre-Med route. It was a major that I chose not only because I was interested in it, but also because I knew it fit into expectations.
Thankfully, unlike most other universities, the Economics department at UIC was in the Liberal Arts & Science College and not in the College of Business. Meaning, I had more general educational requirements and was able to take other courses to fit my aptitude. Faithfully, one of those courses I took was an English literature class.
It was that one class for a semester where not only was I at the top of my class, I was also enjoying it. The following semesters, I ended up taking more and more English courses until eventually, I declared myself an English major. But, breaking away from a stereotypical expectation that I’ve been living my whole life is hard.
I still am an Economics major and will be graduating with two Bachelor of the Arts Degree in Economics and English: a feat that delights my Asian parents and fits into the overachieving Asian cliché. But I’m also breaking away from the Model Minority because I am an English major. And it’s not just me that’s breaking away from it, but other Asian Americans that I know. It’s a friend who a Pre-Med student and a gay Asian American who loves photography. It’s a classmate who is struggling in math, but is an engineering major.
While we all, in some way or form, do assert the stereotypes of an Asian American, we’re also remodeling the Model Minority in our own way.
"ABC is Me" is a blog written from the perspective of an Asian American, a "Model Minority" juggling between two unique backgrounds (Asian and American). It documents a personal struggle of wanting to fit in with the American norm, but also keeping in touch with author's ethnic roots.