It’s hard to escape from the stereotype of the Asian premed student at WashU. We’re often the butts of our own jokes about “Asian-failing” organic chemistry or being Fresh-Off-the-Boat. But this is a learned behavior for Asians and Asian Americans, an instinct to survive being made fun of since childhood by the “real Americans.”
At WashU, East Asian Studies reinforces Asia as a distant and exotic continent, and largely ignores Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The full spectrum of our diaspora is not taught in history class, and with this erasure comes the Model Minority Myth, which portrays Asians and Asian Americans as hardworking, submissive nerds--simultaneously the “good” model racial minority, yet we’re simultaneously portrayed as a foreign menace that steals America’s white collar jobs. Because we’re pressured to follow preprofessional paths to success and excel at academics and extracurriculars, the Model Minority Myth is impossible to avoid. Especially in St. Louis, MO, where Asians and Asian Americans make up barely 2% of the community, WashU can maintain this myth. There is so much unspoken in the Asian diaspora that has allowed WashU’s community to forget Asian American roots in labor unionization, civil rights work with African Americans leaders, the Southeast Asian refugees brought here by the Vietnam War, and that Sikh Americans are persecuted for looking like “terrorists.” This erasure has bought temporary Asian and Asian American complacency and silence in institutional racism towards blacks and Latinos, but we must begin remembering our heritage of struggle and solidarity with fellow minorities.