‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Will Not Liberate Us
Delusions of Whiteness drove this author to reject the ‘model minority’ stereotype
The term “Asian American” used to be radical. It was coined in 1968 by Berkeley students empowered by the Black Panthers and anti-imperialists. The national grassroots group Asian American Political Alliance was one of the first attempts to create an activist coalition of people previously defined as “Oriental” or by individual ethnicities.
In the 50 years that have passed, Asian Americans have become the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, comprising more than 20 million people across dozens of ethnic groups. But what it actually means to be Asian American is less clear than ever, as disaggregated data shows deep economic and social stratification between groups (eight of the 19 largest Asian groups had higher poverty rates compared to the U.S. average), exacerbated by the ever-widening gap between rich and poor. Yet, time and time again, we are told we’re next in line to be White.
Rebuffing this tidy “model minority” narrative is a new essay collection from writer Cathy Park Hong. Simmering with a white-hot, righteous, clarifying rage, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning is a dive into the psychological condition of being an Asian American and a necessary and urgent polemic against White supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism.
According to Hong, a professor at Rutgers University, Newark, and the poetry editor at the New Republic, minor feelings arise when the mainstream perception of your social standing contradicts your reality as a person of color. It’s cognitive dissonance characterized by stasis — more of a hum than a roar, but a form of racial trauma nonetheless.
“You are told, ‘Things are so much better,’ while you think, ‘Things are the same.’ You are told, ‘Asian Americans are so successful,’ while you feel like a failure,” she writes.
These feelings are inconvenient because they stand in stark contrast with the meritocratic myth that if you work harder, you will succeed. In reality, that belief…