“You must be smart.”

Google: “You’re Asian. You must be smart.” and behold the many articles and blogs about the being the model minority. I am not for writing on the same topic so many other people have talked about but maybe if enough people complain about the same exact thing, it will get noticed; so I’ll add my 2 cents to the fray.

Now, on the surface, the assumption that Asians = smart people seems like a good thing, but look closer, and think about what that statement is really saying. Because we were born in a particular area or because our parents were born in that area, we are smart. Don’t worry about our test scores or how many times we’ve walked into a glass door thinking it wasn’t there. No, no, our parents are from Japan, China, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Korea, so by nature we’re smart. Now does that really make sense? It’s especially appreciated when the person saying it knows nothing of our actual test scores or has had very few conversations with us. Nope, we are no longer human beings, just products of the homeland, churning out intelligent things that can understand math and science. Maybe we are smart if we’ve realized how dumb that assumption is.

Regardless of good or bad, can you see how degrading these stereotypes can be? Yes, in some ways, we benefit from having the expectation of being intelligent, a phenomenon called “positive stereotyping” (I Googled that too and guess what came up as related questions… “Are all Asian smart?” – bad grammar and all). The expectation forces us to try to actually be smart since if you’re like me and don’t like letting people down, that motivation is like a fire under your butt. Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson performed an experiment in the 60’s showing that students who were expected to do well in school by their teachers had better grades at the end of the experiment when compared to students not expected to do well, when both groups actually began at the same level (Read about the study here). However, the constant pressure is taxing on the mind and soul. We are never satisfied with ourselves; a lovely little recipe for depression.

My point is: don’t assume; treat people as they are; respect others, their experiences, their desires. Smart or not, we all bleed and hurt the same.

 

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