Copyright 2007 by Northwestern University School of Law Vol. 101 Northwestern University Law Review Colloquy “TESTING THE ‘MODEL MINORITY MYTH’”: A CASE OF WEAK EMPIRICISM Robert S. Chang*& Rose Cuison Villazor**I.INTRODUCTIONAs the legal and political wars rage over affirmative action, the role played by Asian Americans is increasingly disputed. Should Asian Ameri-cans be included in affirmative action programs? Do such programs harm Asian Americans because spaces that should be given to them are instead given to less qualified Blacks and Latinos? Does Asian American success indicate that affirmative action polices are unnecessary? At stake in each of these questions is the notion that Asian Americans are the “model minor-ity.” The model minority designation often depicts Asian Americans as achieving success through cultural values and hard work,1presenting them as a blueprint for others who want to achieve similar success. These posi-tive attributes of Asian Americans are used to illustrate their ability to over-come discrimination and to juxtapose them with other racial groups, whose failure to overcome discrimination is then blamed on a lack of these cultural traits and an ethic of hard work.2This juxtaposition may then be used to imply that social policies such as affirmative action, welfare, or reparations might be wrongly directed. Critical discussion of the model minority designation is now standard fare in Asian American jurisprudence.3A number of scholars have cri-*Sturm Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law, University of Denver Sturm College of Law. Pro-fessor of Law and J. Rex Dibble Fellow, Loyola Law School, Loyola Marymount University. A.B. Princeton University; M.A., J.D. Duke University. ** Assistant Professor of Law, Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. B.A. Univer-sity of Texas, J.D. American University, LL.M. Columbia University. 1Nicholas D. Kristof, The Model Students, N.Y.TIMES, May 14, 2006, at 4-13 (link). See also Timothy Egan, Little Asia on the Hill, N.Y.TIMES,Jan. 7, 2007, at 4A24 (link). 2See Robert S. Chang, Toward an Asian American Legal Scholarship: Critical Race Theory, Post-Structuralism, and Narrative Space, 81 CAL.L.REV. 1241, 1260 (1993), 1 ASIAN L.J. 1, 20 (1994). 3See, e.g., YAMAMOTO ET AL.,RACE,RIGHTS AND REPARATION:LAW AND THE JAPANESE AMERICAN INTERNMENT267-69 (2001) (discussing and criticizing the model minority myth); Pat Chew, Asian Americans: The “Reticent” Minority and their Paradoxes, 36 WM.&MARY L.REV. 1 passim (1994) (same); Frank Wu, Neither Black nor White: Asian Americans and Affirmative Action, 15 B.C.101
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