A Conversation With Asian-Americans on Race
In this installment of our “Conversations on Race” series for Op-Docs, Asian-Americans talk about how stereotypes unfairly confine them — particularly the one that brands them a “model minority.” As the subjects of our film explain, this perception not only devalues the experiences of other racial minorities, but it also renders the diverse experiences of Asian-Americans invisible.
As we’ve incorporated new perspectives into our series over the past year, one theme has been consistent: Racial stereotypes harm not only the communities they inaccurately characterize, but American society overall. All the groups we’ve spoken with — black parents and their children, Latinos and white Americans — have told us how difficult these issues can be to confront. We knew it was time to broaden that conversation (which we hope includes you, too).
So in two days of interviews we sought to unpack assumptions and uncover some deeper truths about the experiences of Asian-Americans. Our conversations went beyond personal accounts of racism and discrimination here in the United States, and extended to the residual outcomes of American influence in Asia, particularly as they relate to immigration. We heard from refugees whose experiences more closely resembled those of Latinos and African-Americans than any sort of “model minority” narrative.
The experiences expressed here provide complicated narratives of race and identity that we hope can contribute to a more nuanced understanding of how institutionalized racism works — especially as it has affected the Asian-American community. As the people in this film suggest, the way we usually discuss race does not reflect the vast range of experiences of discrimination and opportunity in this country. If we’re going to change that, we need to embrace diverse voices — and also work harder to understand and dismantle the biases around us. We think the people in this piece do exactly that — and approach these difficult themes from a position of both vulnerability and strength.
Initially presented by The New York Times.