My Heartache as a Model Minority: an Asian Female in San Francisco
I am a Thai woman, of Chinese heritage and a first-generation immigrant. I’ve spent 22 years working in tech before leaving corporate to start my own business coaching and advising leaders in tech. Last year, after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor amongst many others, I started introspecting about my own role in racism, and remembering the casual racism of my youth. I wrote about my Asian privilege where in the world of Silicon Valley and tech, I’d personally experienced far more sexism than racism. This is when I first encountered the term “model minority,” often used to refer to Asian Americans, defined in Wikipedia as “a minority demographic…whose members are perceived to achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the population average.” This success is often measured with education, income, and professional representation. Stanford degree, check. Tech salary, check. Representation of Asians in tech, at least in the rank and file, check. Yup, that’s me, the model minority in San Francisco.
Last year, I did my own work, reading through books on race, taking my children to the Black Lives Matter protests, and continuing my leadership coaching with women, people of color, and immigrants. And I kept working and building my own business. I focused on living through all the uncontrollabilityof the pandemic. I put my head down in the sand. I was the model minority.
I ignored the media when the former president talked about the “Chinese virus” and the “kung flu.” In my liberal San Francisco bubble, I told myself: “ Nobody takes those clowns seriously anyway,” ignoring the fact that half the country had voted a different choice than my own. I vaguely noted the spike of hate-fueled attacks on Asian Americans in cities throughout the U.S. and breathed a sigh of relief assuming that they would stop when President Biden took office earlier this year. But they didn’t stop.
The dam broke last week and I could no longer bury my head in the sand. I’d been avoiding the news of attacks on elderly Asian Americans in Oakland and San Francisco. Last Tuesday, a white man struggling with “sex addiction” killed eight people in three Atlanta-area massage businesses. Six of them were Asian women. I could no longer ignore the negative swirls of racism and…