The disproportionate number of Asian Americans in Silicon Valley contributed to the concept of the “model minority.” Some claim it is employed against them.
not being heard. obtaining promotions despite others. stereotyped as being “diligent” and “passive.”
In recent days, as the #stopasianhate movement grew into a widespread protest and action, many Asian Americans working in tech spoke to Protocol about their experiences. These experiences shared similar themes. They contend that the late attention given to acts of violence and bigotry committed against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is connected to the same myth of the “model minority” that excludes them from the workforce.
The mass shooting in Atlanta last month, which left eight people dead, including six women of Asian heritage, shocked the nation. Numerous hate crimes targeting Asian Americans have occurred in the Bay Area, which is where Silicon Valley is physically located. These brutal crimes have sparked protests, contributions, and condemnatory statements from digital giants like Microsoft, Airbnb, Google, and Amazon.
However, the Atlanta shooting was hardly the beginning of anti-Asian prejudice and violence. Anti-Asian hate crimes rose by roughly 150% in 2020 compared to 2019, according to research. Some claim that they have been raising awareness of it at least since March of last year, when Donald Trump, who was then the president, started referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus” and “Kung flu.”
Some claim that initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion frequently exclude them. Focusing on the high proportion of Asian Americans in tech workforces ignores the obstacles to job advancement and the daily slights they endure. Additionally, they are ascribed a “perpetual foreignness” that serves as a link between their treatment at work and the violence they witness being used against those who may be their parents or grandparents.
Preston So, a product strategist, claimed that the technology industry “weaponizes the’ model minority’ concept” against Asian Americans. (He begged Protocol not to mention his employer because he believed that if it were mentioned, it would deny him permission to speak.)
Some Asian Americans are reconsidering the effects of the concept of the “model minority” in light of the recent surge of anti-Asian violence and hatred that has swept the nation. Some consider the assumptions it represents—that Asian Americans are industrious, hardworking, and well-suited to STEM fields—to be pernicious weapons that feed bigotry and conceal the numerous problems Asian Americans confront in both society and the workplace.
In a 1966 New York Times Magazine article, the term “model minority” first appeared. Its author and sociologist, William Pettersen, contrasts Black Americans‘ and Japanese Americans’ experiences.
According to Protocol, Alexander Cho, an assistant professor of Asian American media studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, “it was basically blatantly comparing these two communities to deny anti-Blackness, deny systemic racism.” “It gave people the opportunity to ask, “Hey, if this minority group is succeeding, why aren’t you?” If this minority group is succeeding, then racism must not exist.”
According to Cho, the myth holds that Asian Americans are more successful than those of other races “due of cultural or, even more insidiously, biological qualities [attributed] to that group.” It removes all social context, she said.
Additionally, he continued, it supports the myth that Asian Americans are apathetic.
That they are assimilationists, unwilling to question authority, and lacking in autonomous leadership abilities or ideas, he claimed. That’s sort of the evil aspect of it, I suppose.
According to this, the Atlanta shooting showed many people what “The idea of the “model minority” is untrue. It is important to remember that we experience a great deal of suffering, persecution, and prejudice.”
“Where are you from originally?”
Many people in Michelle Kim’s life advised her to obtain a profession in technology because she needed to earn more money so she could bring her mother to the United States.
Kim thought the tech industry would be better and more progressive than the consulting firms where she previously worked, but that was not the case, according to Kim, who founded the Queer Straight Alliance at the University of California, Berkeley, and coordinated volunteer efforts to support LGBTQIA+ youth.
She described diversity training as “half-assed, whitewashed.” White supremacy or institutionalized racism were not mentioned.
Checking boxes is all it is, she said.
In order to protest Betterworks’ treatment of a colleague, Beatrice Kim, Kim, who now owns the diversity consulting Awaken, resigned from her director-level position there. (The two went on to found Awaken together; they are not related.)
Beatrice Kim filed a lawsuit, claiming that Kris Duggan, who was the company’s then-CEO, had sexually abused her during an event. Duggan left the company claiming the “distractions” of the case, but he continued to serve on the board for several months following. After an investigation, the business concluded that no corporate rules had been broken. Later, a deal was made between the parties. Beatrice Kim choose not to respond.
Michelle Kim claimed that she experienced reprisals for defending her friend in court. She said that in addition to experiencing microaggressions because of her Asian ancestry, she experienced sexual harassment at the workplace.
“The most frequent question, in my opinion, is “Where are you from? Where exactly are you from? “She spoke.
She said how several coworkers joked that they “couldn’t tell the difference” between her and another Asian American lady in the office because they couldn’t tell her apart from them. Without their permission, names of Asian coworkers were shortened. She also learned that a white employee at the workplace was asked at random if they had soy sauce.
Since the Beatrice Kim incident, majority of the company’s executives, according to Betterworks CEO Doug Dennerline, have been removed. He continued by saying that it did not represent the business as it is now.
Dennerline told Protocol in a statement, “We don’t encourage this kind of behavior, and we don’t allow microaggressions. “The Betterworks leadership group and staff members who were employed at the time of the occurrences described by Michelle Kim are no longer with the organisation. Having previously lived in Asia for a while, I am particularly pained by the present atmosphere and violence against the AAPI community. I have been the CEO of Betterworks for three and a half years.”
Michelle Kim claimed that her unpleasant tech experiences frequently involved intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. She said that before to working for Betterworks, she had also suffered sexual harassment at another employer.
She added that Asians are “perpetually gaslighted into believing that we are not marginalized and do not suffer persecution in or outside of the workplace.” She added that there was also the misconception that Asians are quiet.
Kim claimed that her time at Betterworks ultimately inspired her to found Awaken, her diversity consulting business.
She said, “I just never wanted to go back to working in tech ever again. That whole process I observed was really demoralizing and frankly just awful for me.”
Observing the “bamboo ceiling”
The “model minority” notion creates further difficulties for those still working in technology. One of them is the “bamboo ceiling,” a dearth of representation of women in executive positions, according to management expert and author Jane Hyun.
Hyun’s word is divisive; some Asian Americans readily use it, while others vehemently disagree. Asian people are being heavily exoticized and Orientalized, according to Kim. However, I would prefer to use the term than not since I believe specificity is crucial.
Everyone acknowledges that there is a problem. Even in Silicon Valley, Asian Americans are the least likely to be promoted to executive positions, according to numerous reports.
People perceive us as competent workers who are never quite good enough to lead, according to Kim.
Sociologist Margaret Chin recently discussed how the concept of the “model minority,” the “perpetual outsider” status of Asian Americans, and the growth of Asian powers on the international arena all work together to make successful Asian Americans seem dangerous.
When you see an Asian American working in technology, you might automatically assume that person is an engineer or a skilled computer user, according to So. “Seeing us Asian Americans as more than just engineers, as more than just folks who bang away at the keyboard and write code, has been one of the things that’s been really hard for people to do.”
He noted that Asian American women are frequently stereotyped as user experience designers or specialists. Neither men nor women Asian Americans are frequently viewed as managers or executives, he claimed.
Recognizes that there are a few prominent Asian executives in the tech sector, such late Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Zoom CEO Eric Yuan. He contends that not all Asians in tech have the same opportunities for success since he views these individuals as the exception rather than the rule.
Being Asian in the technology industry carries some intrinsic advantages, often as a result of the “model minority” concept, as well as some credibility and authority, but only to a limited extent. For most people, that ends in the boardroom.
Changing the topic of discussion
Women initiated the discussion on diversity, equity, and inclusion in tech, which then spread to other underrepresented groups like Black and Latinx professionals. Asian Americans were not included in the discussion since they were thought to be “overrepresented.”
According to Michelle Kim, there is a “special flavor of oppression against Asian people where it’s not actually talked about.”
Kim has collaborated with internet firms like Vimeo, Google, Squarespace, Refinery29, and VMware through her business, Awaken. She stated that she believes there is an opportunity for leaders to examine their workplace cultures and consider how they may be contributing to recent acts of anti-Asian hate as well as other forms of oppression and racism in light of the recent acts of violence against the Asian American community.
The reality is that there is anti-Asian prejudice present at every level of our society, she continued. “Similar to anti-Blackness, I’ve been urging folks to stop making statements that make it seem like they aren’t a part of the issue. You contribute to the issue as well. You are also involved in maintaining this white supremacy system.”
According to Kim, it would be beneficial for software businesses to break down data on Asian American representation to reflect the enormous diversity seen in Asia: About 51 different countries and territories can be found among Asian Americans. Additionally, they are economically diverse: San Francisco has a 35% Asian population, yet 42% of the city’s poor are Asian Americans. Additionally, the gap between Asian Americans’ incomes is growing.
The term “Asian American” is crucial to achieving [that] goal because it helps establish political coalitions, according to her. However, when we use it to bring together the experiences and representation needs within the IT industry, we wind up flattening a number of different social groups and being happy with a result that is actually unjust. She said that underrepresented groups include Southeast Asians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and even some East and South Asian ethnicities.
Kim also argued that there is a lack of intersectional context and knowledge when it comes to Asian people’s experiences in IT. She claimed that Asian men and women have particular job experiences. Women experience harassment, fetishization, and other forms of gendered and sexualized violence, for instance, but this is not discussed, according to the speaker.
Cho emphasized that faulty statistics are frequently used to justify “model minority” notions. Asian Americans have high education rates, but this does not account for the impact of immigration policies that support education. Additionally, data on household income disregard the existence of multigenerational households. The first step in eradicating these misconceptions, in his words, is to correct such mistakes and inform people about the historical and social background of Asian Americans.
Kim also calls for greater cooperation between the Asian population and other racial groups. Some Asian Americans in the computer industry, according to Kim, swallowed the concept of the “model minority” and think their success is a result of meritocracy.
They are close to white people because they think they are honorary white, she claimed. “And when it comes to empowering Asian people, anti-Blackness needs to be included in the debate.”
Many people don’t even understand how anti-Black the “origin of the’ model minority’ concept is, she claimed.
Kim emphasizes how racism is deeply ingrained in American society and how it affects all people of colour. She also wants people to understand that Asian Americans are going through a difficult time right now since so many of them have been warning about the negative effects of the rise in anti-Asian sentiments.
Not simply because of the brutality we witnessed in Atlanta, but also because we have been raising the alarm about how this violence has been growing over time. And I believe that not ever being heard is related with a very particular type of anguish.