I’m seeing a lot of incredible unpacking-racism work in the white and non-black POC spiritual communities! Most of you follow my writing over at the @kelseykorero Instagram, but today we’re looking at something a little more extensive than is possible in a IG caption! I wanted to share here some less-obvious challenges to think about:
🏳️THE MODEL MINORITY MYTH 🏳️
- The model minority myth is something upheld often by both elders in the BIPOC community (out of a desire for their children’s future safety) and in the white community too, both in a “positive” and negative sense which are both harmful. This is the upholding of a “model” minority citizen who has been successfully assimilated to society, both as something to be inspired by, as a representative or as a “there’s no excuse” erasure of other minority narratives. For example, Barack Obama and Oprah are both upheld to the black community to say “well racism can’t be real, these two succeeded so why can’t you”!
- This myth fails in several ways. Firstly, it doesn’t admit that many “Model Minorities” have benefited from proximity to whiteness and wealth which enables them to become that model. Barack Obama, for example, was socialised mainly by a white mother in a middle-class suburb who provided exceptional early education, consistent schooling and social/financial security by which he was able to attain a Harvard degree, community relationships and even his first secure job.
Also, successful assimilation to white society often means a huge loss of BIPOC culture, language & relationships. Just because a BIPOC HAS assimilated doesn’t mean that extreme harm hasn’t been done, and loss of culture/social isolation is a huge cause of suicide even among middle-class BIPOC. It often creates self-hating BIPOC who are forced to distance themselves from their people in order to secure their own safety. From here we get those often-heard excuses like “I have a black friend and they don’t mind if I say the N-word!” or “My uncle is Aboriginal but he doesn’t care about changing the flag!”. Just because one assimilated BIPOC is in your proximity, doesn’t mean that a positive outcome has taken place. In fact, if surrounded by people who erase their identity, many BIPOC do it to themselves and it can take years to develop the strength and self-esteem to challenge this.
- Another big point for white people is that they aren’t taught to see themselves as “WHITE people”, just “people”. They are taught to normalise themselves and Other non-white people. This even in “non-racist people”, believe me, I have done it myself in the past! Ever described an event to someone as “this Asian lady driving” or “John is this really nice black guy that does the deliveries”? Yeah, that’s cause whiteness is normalised and there’s never a need to say “this white guy I saw”, because unless told otherwise, that’s what is assumed.
This is important cause when a white person commits a crime anywhere, white people don’t get on social media to apologise on their behalf - they don’t even affiliate with them. But when white people share “uplifting” stories of “kind black men” and “friendly Muslims” etc, while it’s a good-hearted attempt to “change the narrative”, they’re ACTUALLY saying that they DO see BIPOC as “Other”. BIPOC don’t need uplifting stories of other BIPOC- we already know we’re human. Do you? The best thing you can do here is actually work on the worldview that places whiteness as the norm. Learn to accept the identification and connection to whiteness and white behaviour, instead of being offended that you are being “othered” like everybody else. Whiteness is NOT the standard. I’m not saying it is BAD, I’m saying that it’s not “normal” to which everybody else deviates.
- Finally! (I know this is a lot for a social media post so thank you for being committed to this work) the Model Minority myth gets used a lot in refugee/immigrant debate. It’s trying to be helpful, I understand! Things like, sharing stories of refugees that are doctors, lawyers or save kittens or do groceries for old ladies or brain surgery - I.e. model minorities. Again, attempting to change the narrative that “refugees/BIPOC migrants are bad dangerous people”. The thing is, that it doesn’t actually change any bigoted person’s view because they are INGRAINED with the dehumanisation of minorities. In fact it makes them worse, because they then say “Well if Dr Charlie was a refugee, what excuse do these ones have to protest/hunger strike/etc?! The majority of them aren’t like HIM” (I.e. assimilated - see my first point). The thing is... BIPOC don’t NEED to be doctors or lawyers to have the right to live. As a white or non-black person, have you ever thought “I’d love my child to become a doctor... that way they’re less likely to get murdered or deported”? No.
BIPOC are normal people whose fundamental human rights aren’t dependent on anything, or requiring special behaviour to earn it. If they commit crimes, they should be charged & tried fairly and safely without threat to life. They can be doctors or teachers or retail staff or stay-at-home-parents or do-nothings the same way that non-black folk are. The core of trying to uphold “Model Minority” is rooted in structural racism that for centuries only valued BIPOC in relation to how they served white owners. Literally, BIPOC who didn’t assimilate well enough were first in line to be killed because it was believed that they were the closest sub-humans to animals. Whereas BIPOC who were forcibly instructed well enough to become “assimilated” were praised and considered to be ‘closer to white’ and therefore more worthy of life. Some other terms to look up “black exceptionalism” and “noble savage”.
Another thing is using the example of ‘peaceful’ exceptional BIPOC like Martin Luther King, Jr., Michelle Obama or the Dalai Lama to shame BIPOC into silence: someone’s ability to tolerate hatred and abuse doesn’t make them ‘better’ than those who will not. BIPOC worth is not measured in our happy acceptance of bullshit.
- One more: saying “I can’t be racist, I think BIPOC are beautiful!”.... thinking something is attractive doesn’t mean you treat it properly. You only need to look at the Kardashians to see how the admiration for BIPOC beauty has been corrupted into getting butt injections, lip inflations, dark spray tans, cornrows... in other words, stealing features of BIPOC women and tacking them into a white womans body. All the beauty but made more Eurocentric with waist liposuction and nose reduction. Both Kim and Kylie have been investigated for stealing from black artists & creators who don’t have the money to fight them in court. You MAY think BIPOC are beautiful or attractive. But it has nothing to do with being anti-racist. If you think BIPOC are beautiful, stick around and listen to their needs, desires and concerns.
Thank you guys for listening and for educating. If you benefit from any of my work, blog, articles, lessons and free resources online, I would ask that you make an affordable contribution to PayPal.me/kelseykorero. And continue to learn from BIPOC educators, creatives & friends! 💜
Read more of my work on Anti-Racism in Spirituality at my Instagram - Instagram.com/kelseykorero