By Ed Diokno
As Asians, we’ve all had to contend with the image that most non-Asian Americans have of us. Often they can’t tell if we are Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Cambodian or any of the other 48 or more ethnicities originating in Asia. Inevitably we hear the same questions: “What are you?” or, “Where are you from?” which leads to the dreaded follow-up query, “Where are you REALLY from?”
They may even confuse you with another Asian co-worker, or they assume that we’re all engineering or math students, or believe that we’re united on all issues, or they think we’re all alike.
Not only do we have to do something extraordinary to stand out, or assume the personality traits that are the complete opposite of the stereotypes assigned to Asians. Instead of being safe, we take unnecessary risks. We laugh too loud at an unfunny joke. We tip higher than the server deserves. We drink more than we should. We drive too fast and aggressive. We don’t raise our hand in class even though we might know the answer and so on, and so on.
And then, there’s that darn model minority myth that hangs over all of us like a dark cloud.
To break through that cloud, a light is trying to leak through. The Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund with the partnership of a score of other agencies serving the AAPI community will begin a month-long campaign this December to raise awareness about the varied — and often unheard — stories of struggles experienced by members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
The mission of #NotTheSame is to raise awareness and to counter the “model minority” myth that assumes all young Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are successful and have unlimited access to college and opportunities. This campaign is inspired by the unheard AAPI stories of homelessness, poverty, refugee struggles, bullying and prejudice.