Divide and Conquer: The New Model Minority

The fix is in, as they say. The announcement has been made. The ideological royal guard of racial stratification is standing at attention. There is a change of the guard in terms of the covenant title, (insert the sound of trumpets please), “Model Minority.” Previously I was swayed by the weight of a 2008 Journal of African American Studies article, “Race, Gender and Progress: Are Black American Women the New Model Minority?” by Amadu Jacky Kaba. This scholar asserts that Black females, despite the effects of slavery, gender discrimination, and racial oppression were slowly becoming the new model minority. Black females were described as replacing Eastern and Southern Asians upon the white pedestal for other minority groups to be in awe of.

Many do not know the term “model minority” was coined by sociologist William Peterson in a 1966 New York Times magazine essay entitled, “Success Story: Japanese American Style.” The piece made the argument that despite their experiences with historical marginalization, Asian Americans have attained “success” (whatever that means in this country), due to strong families, respect for education, and work ethic. In later years the media provided an array of articles and coverage that exhibited this point. In essence they were all nationally and internationally stressing the strength of the poignant question—“Why can’t Blacks get their act together?” The term by many is viewed as both racist and divisive. It was created by the White elite to serve as a way to downplay the effects of racism on Blacks while publicly blaming Blacks, the victim, for their own political, economic, and social status.

In my research, I have seen the trends of Black female graduation (high school, bachelors, and advanced degrees) increase while Black males have dropped. I have noticed the increase of Black females attaining corporate, medical, and legal jobs. I have also noticed the declining number of Black males entering the educational programs needed to attain these positions. I have seen the young Black male faces entering into a prison system that is plastered wall to wall with their image. The health and suicide rates fare no better. When taking this into account, I was not so sure the predicted change of guard would occur.

This was not until I became aware of the emerging research by Dudley Poston at Texas A&M, that points to China, which replaces Mexico (Mexican immigrants) as the new U.S. source for low wage workers coming to the US. He goes on to assert that the sentiment, legal maneuvers, and overall disdain targeting Mexican workers we have witnessed in the past few years will possibly be refocused on the replacing low-wage Asian worker. Due to this I feel that the outlook on Asians as the supposed “model” will cease to exist. They too will be blamed for the same issues Mexican workers are blamed for today. This will give way to a new champ to be elected in order to continue the divide between people of color, and at the same time sustaining the existing racist oppressive conditions that keep Blacks and Latinos down.

Unlike the application of the frame of Asian Americans, I feel that the ramifications of promoting Black females as the new model minority will not only negatively impact race relations, but the social relationship between Black males and females. What can we do? We know the social and psychological damage the previous model has done to world. Therefore there is no excuse. I challenge you as a scholar and/or citizen of social justice to push back. We have to point out what this divisive tactic is to the world—destructive.


  1. Blaque Swan

    All things considered, the overwhelming majority of African American women will not give up on black men even if we do come to be held as the new “model minority.” Yes, WAITING TO EXHALE was cathartic, and yes, there will be some loudly touted “told you so”s from a few black women. But trust and believe, we gotchur back like black, baby!

    At the end of the day, I suspect most of us will be suspicious of being hailed as the new model minority after so many centuries of being “da mule of da world.” After all, if “women are the world’s niggers,” what does that make black women?

    That’s all to say, or rather, concede that there will be some black women who take this opportunity to get high and mighty about black women. But they weren’t checking for black men in the first place, and you shouldn’t be checking for them, either.

    There will be substantial push back to this new tactic even if CNN doesn’t cover it.

      • Blaque Swan

        Oh, push back by society at large? Oh, no! I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that. I just meant push back, or at least an eye roll, from black women.

        The only push back I can imagine from society is on the very idea that black women are the model minorities and not some other group.

  2. cordoba blue

    The above article states: Asian Americans have attained “success” (whatever that means in this country), due to strong families, respect for education, and work ethic.
    What does success mean in Africa? What does success mean in Mexico? What does success mean in Argentina? What does success mean in Japan? What does success mean in Italy? What does success mean in New Zealand? What does success mean in India?
    In all these countries success means ability to take care of own’s own needs, and the needs of one’s family. It means the ability to survive. Just like in the animal kingdom, it’s all about survival. Are you suggesting that success in America is about something other than survival? Strong families, respect for education (because knowlege is power-it’s about knowing how to function and survive), and the willingness to work for what one wants is pretty basic common sense components necessary for survival. Is there ANYTHING I’ve just stated that DOES NOT make sense?
    The ancient Romans made a strong case for the cohesive family unit as a means to further a society. In fact, Gibbons’ The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire illustrated that one of the reasons the empire fell was due to the fact that the family unit was disintegrating. Why do you think America functions differently? Are you “scorning” the desire of any American to want to make a decent living, live in a house that is not infested with rodents and crumbling with termite damamge, eat food that is fresh and not a year old from a can, cloth their children, have money for doctor bills?
    Why are American goals different from any other country’s goals, including Africa? They’re NOT.
    Secondly, African American men operate within a culture that does not condone having multiple children by different mothers and then abandoning their families. This is happening at an alarming rate within many black communities. Is this the white man’s fault. Isn’t marrying the mother of your child preferable to continuing to behave like a single man and date other women and leaving that black mother to struggle on her own? The “black male” is NOT put on a pedestal because there are too many black males who shirk responsibility for the welfare of their own children, thus leaving the black female to shoulder the burden for child rearing and holding down multiple jobs.
    People aren’t blind. And it’s not about divide and conquer. It’s about what everybody acknowledges is happening right in front of their eyes. Black women are the first to complain about black men in their communities. Black women are the recipient’s of black male lack of responsibility, not white people! Why should white people care if black men neglect the black mothers of their own children? It’s the African American community who suffers here, not whites. Why shouldn’t black women receive praise for their super-human efforts?
    If this negatively impacts race relations, then I guess BLACK MALES should be concerned about this negativity and step up to the plate. Black males are destroying their own communites, not the white man. This twisted logic of assigning fault for all social ills in the black community to the white race is beyond ridiculous.Or are black males so totally beyond the scope of rational thinking skills that they can’t be reached, so the “scholars and/or citizens of justice have to push back”. What’s illogical about asking BLACK MEN to push back and show the world of “scholars” that they aren’t irresponsible “kids” but rather mature, reliable, conscientious MEN. If they acted as much like men as their women did, this “divide” would not have been noticed by general public in the first place.
    The Samurai in Japan for centuries had a definition of what it was to be “a man”. Take care of your family. Take care of your village. Honor your ancestors.All these cross-cultural concepts of what constitutes manly behavior did not Originate in America. Too many black men are behaving in a manner that defies Cross-Cultural concepts of strength and manliness. Again, these are not “silly American” concepts but societal tenets in Nigeria, Spain, Thailand, Brazil, Ecuador, Greenland, Canada, North Vietnam, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Peru, Columbia, Italy, Ireland, Kenya, Japan, Scotland, Tahiti, Turkey! MEN ARE ONLY CONSIDERED REAL MEN IF THEY TAKE CARE OF THEIR FAMILIES.

    • ThirtyNine4Ever

      This really comes across as an attack on the black male and not as a serious response to the article. Did you know men of lower income groups are more likely to have illegitimate children in general? You might want to look at wherever you are getting your numbers and normalize them for economic background and geographic location before you go making such assumptions.

  3. cordoba blue

    This relying on the liberal American left to “fix” the “image” of things that should be “fixed” by the black community themselves is becoming an obsession on this site. This is not about anti-racism, it’s about asking American liberals to “adjust their thinking” every time an OBVIOUS lack of reason within the black community itself rears its ugly head. To demean Asians, for example, for the fantastic accomplishments they’ve achieved is nonsensical beyond belief.
    There are some things within the black community that blacks are responsible for. This ain’t one of ’em. Anti-racism should not be about the rest of the entire western and eastern hemisphere “adjusting their thinking” every time the black community fails in some respect. “OH..it’s not their fault! You’re just not looking at it the right way! See, the white man made them do it.” Unbelievable.
    Asians got where they are for not asking people to adjust their perceptions but by just sticking together (that would include no gun shots in the middle of the night over who’s controlling the crack on 34th Street) but rather supporting your family, attending college, respecting the benefits of learning for the sake of learning, and for Pete’s Sake…learning to speak proper English and not asking that the SAT’s be diluted so that it’s easier for people who have not applied themselves in high school to achieve a reasonable score. The Asians have actually raised the SAT bar so much, it’s becoming outdated!

  4. Sal Baje

    first, any discussion of asian americans and the “model minority” myth really needs to begin with a clear definition of what ethnic groups we’re talking about when we speak of “asians”. both in popular and academic discourses, asian american really means “americans of east asian descent” — i.e. chinese-, japanese-, and korean-americans. the darker-skinned asians and islanders, from countries that were occupied rather than occupiers, tend not to fit the normative idea of “asian american-ness” and thus are omitted from the conversation.

    now, if african american women are, as argued, to become the new “model minority”, i hope that they will reject the label. it *is* a way to divide and conquer; the model minority label obscures the very real challenges that asians — particularly newcomers — face in the US and renders less visible the places where the interests of asian- and african- americans converge. moreover, it’s wholly unfair to compare the apparent “success” east- and south- asian americans, who, are in the US by way of an immigration policy that rewards the ambitious and connected, with the so-called lack of progress among african americans, who have fought and continue to fight for true equality in this country. asian americans who have embraced this label have also tacitly agreed to be used to further a racist agenda that ultimately doesn’t serve their own interests.

  5. John D. Foster

    Thanks for the post. I recall coming across the Kaba article and I also found it troubling. Giving black women their just recognition and respect for their accomplishments despite the barriers they face is important. However, framing it in such a way (i.e. “model minority”) is inflammatory and destructive.


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