Although it was not the first to do so, Time’s cover story in 1987 titled The Asian American Whiz Kids is often cited as an example of media coverage perpetuating the model minority myth.
Now 27 years later, Time has updated its story talking to some of the same people it talked to in 1987. It’s conclusion:
“The lack of Asian leadership in tech sheds light on a larger issue: Asians are excluded from the idea of diversity”
The most recent example can be found in the diversity reports released by Silicon Valley’s largest tech firms.
The reports highlighted the lack of diversity in the workforce of blacks and Latinos. When it came to media coverage, Asian Americans were lumped in with whites. No mention was given in the coverage to the under representation of Asian Americans in leadership positions.
“We don’t get the chance to really go through and break the glass ceiling,” Virgina Kee says. “We are putting limitations on our people.”
It’s pretty much the same thing she said when interviewed by time in 1987:
“Years ago… they used to think you were Fu Manchu or Charlie Chan. Then they thought you must own a laundry or restaurant. Now they think all we know how to do is sit in front of a computer.”
Back in 1987, Yat-Pang Au had filed a complaint with the Department of Justice after he failed to be admitted into UC Berkeley’s engineering program. Today’s he’s 45 and is the CEO and co-founder of Veritas Investments. He was part of Time’s cover story in 1987 and he talked again to Time for its update.
Au says he overcame the model minority stereotype and an assumption that his academic smarts were a result of his race and not his effort. Yet despite his success, the initial rejection from UC still hurts.
“I was, to be honest, embarrassed that I didn’t get in, embarrassed thinking and expecting that we lived in a relatively color blind society,” Au said.
Au did eventually get into UC after transferring from a community college in 1989.
You can read more about Asian American efforts to overcome the model minority myth in Time.