Cuper Scooper: Model Minority

Cuper Scooper: Model Minority

Selene Rubino

Asian-Americans overlooked in media coverage.

Try searching Google news for "Asian-American" and you'll come up with 2,910 articles published in 2008. Try the same search for "American Indian" and you'll come up with 32,500 articles. Image

In the 2007 national census, Asian-Americans outnumbered American Indians by more than 10 million.

That's a huge discrepancy in coverage. How is it possible that so little is written about Asian-Americans?

Growing up in Cupertino I took it for granted: I go to school with people named Jackie Chan and I watch television shows about people named Jack Bauer. We always say MVHS students are so sheltered, but we never say what we are sheltered from. Crime, certainly, and addiction and poverty, but mostly we are sheltered from the world we read about in newspapers. A world, if Google news would have it, that Asian-Americans have little part in.

Part of the problem is that the term Asian-American is about as ridiculous as the term European-American. Within that category contains various countries of origin, ethnicities, languages, and dialects. It's very hard to write anything meaningful about Asian-Americans, because Asian-Americans aren't a group, and they don't act together as a group.

But try the Google search on separate Asian-American groups:

"Japanese-American" – 760 results
"Korean-American" – 671 results
"Chinese-American" – 34,300 results
"Chinese-American" minus "food safety" – 1,370 results

Even Chinese-Americans, with the largest population of all Asian-American sub-categories, don't merit above 1,500 articles. That's less than twenty times the amount of media coverage given to American Indians. It's clear that there is still an unexplained lack of coverage of Asian-Americans.

According to Social Structure, Institutions, and Everyday Life by Min Zhou, Asian-Americans are typically described in the media as a "model minority". That is, Asian-Americans are richer and more educated than any other ethnic group—including white Americans. And more importantly, judging from rates of intermarriage and quantity of English-speaking households, Asian-Americans assimilate into American culture much faster than any other ethnic group.

Perhaps quick assimilation into mainstream society has prevented Asian-Americans from identifying with each other. Certainly I have heard of the Bhangra Club at our school but not an equivalent Asian group (sorry, Chinese Dance club). Thus it's much easier for journalists to overlook Asian-Americans because they don't form vocal communities.