American politics tells us that being a member of an ethnic minority means being poor, marginalized, and less successful than those in the majority, except for one caveat. Model-minority members are ultra-successful, role models for others, and most of the time, Asian-American. Their members are presumed to have mastered the skills to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Is all of this accurate? Is being held out as special really a compliment? Or, does treating success as a foregone conclusion only punish individual and make their failure seem even worse?
Emily S. Lee is Professor and Chair in the Philosophy Department of California State University, Fullerton. She is the author of numerous articles, and editor of two volumes, specializing in philosophy of race, phenomenology, and feminism.
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