The recent uproar over Amy Chua‘s (pictured) upcoming book, The Triple Package, has its origins in the model minority myth that has been popularized by the media, and even by some within the Asian American community, according to Ellen Wu, author of Colors of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority.
In her blog for the History News Network, Wu is critical of the role she says the Japanese American Citizens League played in propagating the model minority myth.
JACL directors shrewdly spun the narrative to speak to the increasingly urgent “Negro Problem.” Nowhere was this most apparent than in journalist Bill Hosokawa’s book Nisei: The Quiet Americans(1969), a general history of Japanese America commissioned by the league as part of JARPO(Japanese American Research Project). Nisei cast Japanese Americans as model minorities, citing famous examples (World Trade Center architect Minoru Yamasaki, Hawai’i Congresswoman Patsy Mink) and asking how such feats of assimilation had been achieved in the face of racial discrimination. “Looking on the extremes of apathy and militancy among Negroes and Hispanos, some Nisei from the comfort of their upper middle class homes have been led to ask: ‘Why can’t they pull themselves up by their own bootstraps the way we did?,’” observed Hosokawa.