In a nation with several significant minority populations, you would expect these marginalized groups to support each other and unite for their rights. However, America has long witnessed minority groups pitted against each other, division within the same demographic, and ethnic separation that take supreme court rulings to break apart.
A teacher of mine this year once said that each generation battles different social issues, and the prime issues that “Generation Z” faces are immigration policy, and equality for black folks. “Don’t worry,” he immediately addressed our largely-Asian class when he finished. “The day for Asian-American representation will eventually come.”
While I have no doubts that the two issues mentioned above are the most attention-worthy in the status quo, I (as someone very interested in Asian-American identity theory) did quite some thinking about how the model minority myth perpetuates these two issues. It was actually one day when an Asian-American friend of mine approached me and asked “what exactly is so bad about the model minority stereotype?” and I ranted for twenty minutes, that I realized how many underlying dangers the myth perpetrates.
While most people are aware of the larger movements for equality and justice such as immigration bans, religious subjugation, prison industrial system, etc, most people continue to engage in subtle methods of discrimination that they could consider “normal” actions/statements, otherwise known as microaggressions.
Unless you’re living on a rock, or perhaps that rock is the burden of midterm exams (which is a more minor reason why I didn’t attend), you probably know what happened a few weekends ago.
I saw the several posts on Instagram, and I’m sure you did too — high school teenagers carrying signs that say “GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN–DAMENTAL RIGHTS“dressed in all pink with an intense expression plastered on their face. Or perhaps…I am describing you?
And isn’t it odd, as a social justice advocate, that I did not attend the march?
Here’s the caustic truth: it absolutely is not.
On the dreary morning of January 19th, several hundred high school students crowded on the gym bleachers for a break from their hectic schedules–to listen to the annual assembly in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. At first, some students took care of their streaks, gossiped about who broke up and who got together, or complained about the upcoming finals week, blanketing the audience in a light hum of chatter.
However, as soon as the sound of the microphone turning out rang throughout the room, the voices lowered to a hush whisper, and then gradually disappeared altogether. Everyone’s ears were perked up, listening intently as the guest speaker made her statement. As almost everyone was nodding along to the speech about bringing change through forgiveness, peace, and respect, I shot a glance at my friend and raised my eyebrows. Yikes, our expressions practically screamed.
Our conversation afterword went something along the lines of this:
“How do you think the assembly was?”
“Um, it was alright. But I liked last years spoken poetry better. It was more radical, you know?”
“Yeah, I get what you’re saying. This year’s guest speaker was qualified and all that, but I didn’t really feel anything.”
“And she was lowkey promoting respectability politics.”
“Lowkey? More like highkey.”
In the plight of xenophobia, racism, and populism that has made an aggressive comeback just when we were on the track of improvement ever since our dear POTUS entered the office, or any other nation where politics seems like a blood bath, sometimes we are so focused on current struggles that we forget a marginalization that has been occurring for centuries.
Although not every country can tangibly relate to anti-blackness, war on drugs, or child labor, there are two related system that have infected every corner of the earth: colonialism and imperialism; the conflict between the “savage” and the “civilized.” Yes, every continent, with perhaps the exception of Antarctica, has experienced these seemingly foreign concepts (shocker: it’s not always the Caucasian that is the “civilized”).
Note: Although I may sound subjective, I am merely writing about an issue/theory, and I will not confirm any personal beliefs.
There’s a hidden force with cold and brutal hands that suffocate us, and the danger is that we hardly notice it – corporations are literally investing in students in public schools in order to receive a financial gain. They increase competition and create an award system that determines a student’s value by their potential to earn money, to be a benefit to the economy. These students are given the best privileges, whereas those who are unproductive are bound for the school to prison pipeline that contains all the “failures” of society. But the key is that at birth, their class and race already determine their status in life.
Warnings: Mentions of mental illness and suicide.
“I was broken from the inside. The depression slowly chipped me away, finally devouring me. I could not beat the negativity. I detested myself. Even though I tried so hard demanding my memories that kept getting cut off to ‘wake up,’ all I got in return was silence. I‘d rather stop if I cannot breathe.”
– Kim Jonghyun
Kim Jonghyun (April 8, 1990 – December 18, 2017) was the lead vocal of KPOP group SHINee, as well as a distinguished composer/song-writer. He was a supporter of mental health awareness and the LGBT community.
- The second leading cause of death in the US for ages 10-24 is suicide.
- For every suicide, there are 25 attempts.
- US suicide rates are at a 30-year high.
Note: The statistics mentioned above are specific to the United States only. However, this post strives to apply to a world-wide audience.
If facts like these are new to you, then you are stuck in a bubble of oblivion that you need to pop right now (however, I do not blame you; I blame the institutions you engage in). But there is one thing in common that should apply for all: suicide statistics are alarmingly high, yet when asked about suicide, we either (1) do not know anyone personally that has committed suicide (2) feel as though we do not have responsibility/power to prevent suicide.
But look around you. Hidden behind the façade of smiles, of forced bliss, carrying out the same routine over and over, is the deep-rooted loneliness, balancing on the thin edge of life–one side is suffering, the other death, but oblivious to which is which. People (and surprisingly youth) are so good at hiding their pain. And sometimes the happiest people are suffering the most: “I wanted someone to notice [my suffering], but no one knew. Of course, they wouldn’t. They never met me before” (Jonghyun).
Generation Z. iGeneration. Post-Millenials. Homeland Generation.
Yet again, another label that does not carry much meaning besides the time period that it refers to, yet at the same time, is characterized by patterns so obvious that they practically scream “The Modern Era!” And although this label is not used in an everyday conversation, this is a reality that we live in–we are that reality.
Older generations seem to have a few stereotypes about this new generation: 1) We’re all lazy. Your typical “I had to walk 3 miles to school in 6 inches of snow!” story–our parents all have their own versions. 2) We’re masterminds at technology. 3) Life is just so, so much easier for us.
As if they’ve forgotten that mental illness is still a prevalent problem! As if they’ve pretended that bullying doesn’t exist, that discrimination still happens, that for some, school just isn’t a safe place. Just because they don’t see the same issues that they faced in high school, our parents automatically think that our lives are picture-perfect.
Please, I wish my iPhone could solve all my problems too.
It’s definitely true that not all high school students face the same stressors or have the same priorities, and therefore we must recognize that what may seem ridiculous to one person is causing a great burden on another. For me specifically, this blog post will be about the insane pressure that some parents place on their students. For some, I may sound privileged for this to be my biggest cause of stress, but I hope you’ll let me explain the true implications of parental pressure.
I’ll first give a background on this so-called community: ~85-90% Asian, upper-middle class, and academically high-achieving. It’s inevitable to form an image in your mind when you encounter these labels, and perhaps that’s the best way to understand the group I’m referencing. According to pure statistics and socio-economic status, we’re a pretty homogeneous cohort, and not many know what it’s like outside the bubble of this community.