On the June 6 episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver broke down the complicated history of the term “Asian American” and the model minority myth, which he called a “tool of white supremacy.” Oliver went on to cite a 2016 Pulitzer Center story by William & Mary Reporting Fellow alum Thomas Le.
The model minority myth stereotypes Asian Americans — a diverse group of people from more than 20 different countries — as “quiet, hardworking, ‘ideal’ immigrant caricatures” in order to pit them against other people of color, according to the Guardian.
“That kind of pressure can do real damage,” Oliver said.
While suicide is the leading cause of death for Asian Americans between the ages of 15 and 24, “only 8 percent of Asian Americans sought help for their mental health, which is less than half of the rate of the general population,” he added, citing Le’s report, “No More Saving Face: Empowering Asian-American Women to Seek Mental Health Treatment.”
The discrepancy isn’t just the product of cultural stigmas, he said, but “also what happens when you’re consistently told to quietly and happily accept discrimination because your version is the ‘nice racism.’”